Trading Places, the outrageous comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, is the latest title to join the Paramount Presents line.
While this film is just shy of its 40th anniversary, it could have been made in any year and still be relevant. Randolph Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer Duke (Don Ameche) are a pair of very rich and greedy brothers. They stoop so low as to make a wager that street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) could be just as successful as commodities broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) if their roles were reversed. Naturally, the comedy writes itself!
After losing everything, Winthorpe befriends Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis). Meanwhile, the Dukes install Valentine in Winthorpe’s former job after posting his bail. Valentine overhears the Dukes discussing their bet during the firm’s Xmas party. Winthorpe is so down at this point that he has attempted suicide. In any event, Valentine lets him know what happened and they begin to start their New Year’s revenge to take the Dukes down.
The train is where things really don’t age well. I don’t know if anyone from the film has apologized for what transpired but Dan Aykroyd’s character gets disguised in blackface. I get that Valentine enables Winthorpe in doing so but this doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable in viewing. Blackface wasn’t okay in classic Hollywood. It wasn’t okay in the 1980s and it’s certainly not okay now. There are other parts of the film that don’t age well–the racial langue in particular. The Dukes use such language in explaining they don’t want Valentine running their company. A shame, too, because this film is hysterical outside of the problematic racial content. After the conversations that took place this summer, a disclaimer is certainly required.
In terms of casting, a number of Saturday Night Live types also show up in cameos (Al Franken, Tom Davis, Jim Belushi). Frank Oz has a small cameo as a corrupt police officer. Part of me wants to think that Elwood Blues had an unknown identical twin brother to fit Oz’s similar role into The Blues Brothers universe. You already have the connection with Aykroyd and director John Landis.
Trading Places was huge for a few reasons. This is the film that would turn Eddie Murphy into a movie star. Aykroyd was already on his way up after The Blues Brothers. However, his career took a turn following Neighbors and Doctor Detroit. This film really helped turn his career around. Jamie Lee Curtis would also benefit from his role in the film. As a result of the film, Don Ameche, out of work for a decade, would also win an Oscar a few years later.
The film is also a revival of the screwball comedy genre. Funny enough, Ralph Bellamy is also a co-star of one of the best screwball comedies of all time, His Girl Friday. Landis also updates the genre for the 1980s by adding in profanity and nudity. The basic genre concepts–satirizing social constructs and classes–is in the film although it falls short in terms of morality. Moreover, Philadelphia makes for the perfect setting because of the American Dream. Say what you will about New York City but Philly is the birthplace of American ideals.
The film, which includes a digital copy, features collectible packaging complete with a fold-out theatrical poster and an interior photo spread. John Landis supervised the film’s remaster from a 4K film transfer. While the film isn’t being released on 4K Ultra HD, it will be available digitally on 4K UHD.
Overall, Trading Places is still funny with thanks to Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy but some of the film’s racial aspects are problematic in this era.
- Filmmaker Focus: Director John Landis on Trading Places HD
- Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places
- Dressing the Part
- The Trade in Trading Places
- Trading Stories
- Industry Promotional Piece
- Deleted Scene with commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey Jr.
- Deleted Scene
- Isolated Score
- Theatrical Trailer
DIRECTOR: John Landis
SCREENWRITERS: Timothy Harris & Herschel Weingrod
CAST: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, and Jamie Lee Curtis