Trading Places (1983)

JOHN LANDIS

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  

USA, 1983.  Cinema Group Ventures, Paramount Pictures.  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .   Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

This is one of the films that led to Eddie Murphy becoming the biggest comedy stars of the eighties and it is easy to see why. He plays a street thug who accidentally bumps into a snobby Philadelphia financier (Dan Aykroyd) and is wrongfully accused of trying to steal his briefcase. Aykroyd is the main adviser to two multi-millionaire commodity brokers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) who constantly argue between whether or not a man’s character is a matter of nature or nurture. In order to settle the debate, they make a bet and arrange to frame Aykroyd as a thief and destroy his reputation, while at the same time taking Murphy in and turning him into a business success. The latter immediately becomes a stylish gentleman with a sense of moral responsibility and an increased level of self-esteem, while Aykroyd takes to the streets and becomes friends with a good-natured prostitute () who becomes his first real friend. It’s a clever idea whose execution has a lot of flaws worth pointing out: the film’s idea of rich, conservative demagogues couldn’t be less credible if it were a Looney Tunes short (rich old men who think they run the world do not openly discuss their plans in a public bathroom), and as is typical for eighties comedies there are far too many excuses to show naked breasts. Aykroyd never pulls the character off and seems like he’s doing a Saturday Night Live imitation of a silver-spooner, not a real embodiment of one, and the film’s last third, in which the cast team up for a revenge scheme, is overly complicated without actually being all that clever. That said, these things strangely don’t stop it from being one of the funniest movies you’ve ever seen:  I defy anyone not to faint dead away laughing when Murphy decides to enact his idea of an African gentleman.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Eddie Murphy)

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