Xmas: 'Trading Places' (1983) Dir. John Landis
A more mature Christmas outing, with veterans of American stage and screen coming together for a very different tone of festive comedy...
Wealthy brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Bellamy & Ameche) decide to to switch the lives of two people from either end of the social hierarchy for a bet.
Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd), well-educated and successful, is framed as a drug-pusher. Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy), a street hustler, is recruited by the Dukes to take Winthorpe’s job and luxurious lifestyle. The two wealthy brothers break one man down and build another up, seeing how different they can be in two very different worlds.
Winthorpe finds a friend in prostitute Ophelia (Curtis), and she gradually warms to him as he vows to get his life back, his job back, his fiancée back, his standing in society back, his money back, his respect back...and that's just the start!
A Christmas classic as much as ‘Die Hard’ is – catering for adults, shying away from sickly sentiment and magic, because while there are presents and Christmas trees, there is plenty of adult humour, foul language and brilliant acting to make this very enjoyable all round.
With a winning performance by Eddie Murphy, at his peak of verbal and physical comedy playing the foul-mouthed but ultimately decent hearted Billy Ray Valentine, you couldn’t get someone better to go up against the mirror image; well spoken, snobbish and clean cut Dan Aykroyd. Both on fine comical form, Murphy has more room to act the fool and steal the show.
Playing out like ‘The Prince And The Pauper’, we have a film of the time when it was more than just social hierarchy that divided people, it was also the colour of skin, which is played on perfectly for Murphy as the “negro” suspected of doing everything wrong compared to the upper-crust “white” man. It’s certainly a film of the era, but works perfect because of this and dishes out many laughs in a time when the P.C brigade wasn’t so strict as it is now.
With stellar support from the old slimy bastards Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche who provide some wonderful laughs with their devious plot to corner the stock market with an equally slimy and foul mouthed Paul Gleason, giving way to a finale that allows everyone to come together in a battle of wits, we also have a stunning Jamie Lee Curtis who is on top form here as a very sweet and caring prostitute. Also, the inimitable charm of the late Denholm Elliott never fails to bolster the upper echelon of the well off.
It’s well paced, has lots of physical and visual comedy as both ends of the social scale come together and get turned on their heads for plenty of fish-out-of-water situations that deal with everyone from pushing drugs, pimping out girls and deciding what price to sell pork bellies.
How Murphy and Aykroyd turn their characters around is the crux of this comedy, and is the perfect anti-family viewing for Christmas.
'Trading Places' is a Paramount Pictures production