Trading Places (1983)

Trading-Places

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Still effective comedy.

The further back in time you go, you run into more and more films that lose their edge. Graphics that were all that suddenly turn into laughable cartoons. Hairstyles that were “far out” now look beyond stupid. Jokes told in comedies tend to fall flat because they often reference things that in modern day…we just can’t connect with – therefore changing the effectiveness of a good movie. That’s what I like to call the de-evolution of film. Just because it was amazing when it was released doesn’t mean it’s any good now. However, that’s not always true, and I’m always a fan to see when a movie is still as impressive as the day it came out. Take for instance Trading Places, a film starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd that was released before my birth, and one I’ve never seen before. I was in that market for “modern audience”, and I was impressed with the film. So let’s break it down.

Let’s focus in on two characters: Winthorpe and Valentine. Louis Winthorpe III, played by Aykroyd, is a rich and spoiled man working for a stock firm in New York City. Billy Ray Valentine, played by Murphy, is a dirt poor con artist living on the streets of New York. When the two bump into each other at a party for the rich and famous, two old geezers make a bet with each other that Valentine would be just as good of a fit as Winthorpe. Seeing how money is power, they made it happen. They ruined Winthorpe’s life and gave it to Valentine, virtually flipping their lives just for game. Those are lives these old geezers just messed with, so you better bet that consequence is waiting for them at the end of the line…just what kind is the question.

Now, this film does take place during the holiday season, and there is a Christmas-themed scene in the film, but you’re probably going to get slapped if you call this a Christmas movie. The movie itself has nothing to do with the holiday. It’s got spirit, sure, but mostly from the comedic stylings of Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. That being said, it’s still a really great movie that still feels generally original. They’ve had a lot of role-switching films throughout the years. The whole idea of The Prince and the Pauper is a famous one, and while it takes the important life lessons from the famous story, it removes the idea of twins and mistaken identity and substituted it with Murphy and Aykroyd. The right choice, if you ask me.

Like I said though, the same life lessons can be found. You don’t have to search very far to find the messages of poverty and wealth. In any given scene, you will either be shown stereotypes of rich people or poor people, how the world views each team, the positives of both, and the negatives. Being rich is great, but you’re surrounded by heartless snobs that think only of themselves and fight tooth and nail for $1 when they have millions in the bank. Yes, it sucks to have no money, but you’re surrounded by like-minded people in the same predicament that aren’t as bad as you’d think. People that are genuinely kind. Don’t get me wrong, this is no PSA, it has enough jokes throughout the film to coat the important stuff nicely.

I liked the old geezers that were behind the entire bet from the beginning. There’s literally no way you can even watch this film without thinking of the old grumpy critics from The Muppets. I’m personally convinced that these guys are literally the human doppelganger version of those muppets. That’s the only explanation.

I did see some issues with the film though, however minor they are. Eddie Murphy forgot one of his lines in the film. I get it, you mess up your lines now and then while shooting, but they didn’t even reshoot the scene. He clearly stumbles over his sentence and starts over. There was no reason to keep it in the film. His character wasn’t stumbling on words, he was. I just think that’s bad filmmaking. My major gripe though, was that I have absolutely no interest in stocks. Trying to understand stocks for me is like trying to understand a 4th year Spanish class final with absolutely no studying. It’s completely lost on me, so in the end of the movie when something big and very stock-y happens, I really have no idea as to the specifics of what I’m watching. I feel like Ferris Beuller waving his hands in a random order with the others. Unfortunately, that took away from my experience.

The Good:
Everything about this film generally feels fresh. I amazingly didn’t really feel the ‘80s cheese I generally feel with movies this old. Yeah I could tell the movie was older, but nothing about the actual substance lacked. The jokes are still great, there are meaningful messages strewn about, it’s just a great film overall.

The Bad:
If you’re like me, you won’t understand a thing about the stock stuff. You don’t really need to, because of Murphy and Aykroyd’s performances, but not knowing what’s technically happening throughout the film may lessen the experience.

Memorable Quote:

Billy Ray: When I was growing up, if we wanted a Jacuzzi, we had to fart in the tub.

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