Trading Places: Looking Good, Feeling Good Edition
Directed by John Landis
Anyone battling insomnia by staring at the boob tube couldn’t have gone the night without seeing this classic 1983 comedy. Starring Dan Aykroyd as richer than Croesus WASP Louis Winthorpe III and Eddie Murphy as pauper Billy Ray Valentine, Trading Places finds the two unwitting cogs swapped into one another’s roles by some cunning evildoers. The polar opposites are at the centre of a cruel bet between two richer-than-Winthorpe investors, Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, respectively). The Dukes wager as to whether or not environment or breeding dictate a man’s actions and connive to swap these two unfortunate souls. Winthorpe is framed for a crime, ousted from his high-level position and immediately replaced by street beggar Valentine. Prodded on, the pawns effectively become "mirror images” of each one’s former life: Winthorpe the beggar and Valentine the, er, black WASP. Eventually learning the disgusting truth, Winthorpe and Valentine plot their revenge and it all wraps up with a pretty bow. And that’s the reason this thing plays endlessly on late night television: its brilliant simplicity. But it also finds two of modern comedy’s most recognisable faces at their freshest and most excited. In fact, all the roles — Jamie Lee Curtis rounds out the list as hooker/aide Ophelia — benefit from Aykroyd and Murphy’s gusto, executing lines with conviction and enthusiasm. Bolstering the already powerful script by then fellow greenhorns Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod (who quickly declined in output, with Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Space Jam to their "credit”), the cast are left to strut their stuff with terrific results. The only stumbling block for this DVD version isn’t even its fault: due to the age and minimal resources the extras are limited to limp stop-gap featurettes such as a "making of,” a sole deleted scene, a trivia track and previews. Regardless, it’s wonderful to have an uninterrupted, uncut (this is Delirious-era Murphy, remember, so cussing prevails) version of one of the early ’80s best comedies.
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