“You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”
Length: 1 hr 58 Rating: 15 About: Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy). An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.
I know I’ve seen this before at some point. I’m just not sure why I’ve not made it a regular watch. On the surface it checks all the boxes, so I wasn’t sure why it never made regular billing like holiday staples such as Die Hard and Home Alone.
The Naughty List
There’s a few too many breast on show for my liking. Not sure about anyone else, but the only breasts I’m after at Christmas are those that can be found on a turkey. The 80s was rife with the gratuitous topless scene, and Trading Places is no exception. When you’ve got ‘Scream Queen’ J-T dropping clothes not once, it becomes trite and unnecessary. Of course, there will be many who completely disagree!
Based on the current climate, I predict this film being put on society’s naughty list alongside Baby it’s Cold Outside within a few years. While I’m not one for censorship, there are a few scenes that aren’t appropriate and made me cringe. To contextualise, it was the 80s and even Mystic Meg didn’t see the revolution of political correctness coming.
So, where are the issues? There’s a few niggles throughout and I didn’t like the use of the N-word, even if it had been long established that the dude who said it was a knob. However, my biggest problem lies within the final act. Who on earth thought black-face Dan Akroyd was a good idea? Or funny? I’m sure it was fine at the time, but I’d very much like to edit it out.
The Nice List
Quite possibly one of the best life swap movies out there. Not only does it comment upon social status, elitism that money festers in the world and the dangers of power but it at least tries to explore the pitfalls of the race divide. While to today’s eyes, it only appears to be an attempt, I still can appreciate how brave it may have appeared at the time.
It’s funny, its clever and its wonderfully retro. From the computers to the price of money, it’s all now so far removed for this to no longer seem cutting edge, but still sharp enough to be saying something.
Dan Akroyd is on top form as an Ivy Leaguer with a silver spoon in his mouth. While there’s elements of his goofiness in the later half of the proceedings, its the stiff and proper gentleman that’s a brilliant touch. It’s like seeing Chris Barrie in the role of Rimmer after watching him play Mr Brittas.
Brody! Wow, how was Denholm Elliot ever cast as Alfred or Q is beyond me. What I love so much about his role in Trading Places is that he gets to play the ‘stuffy’ British stereotype who gets to break the convention and have fun with it. His straight faced interaction with the downtrodden Akroyd is pure brilliance.
Jamie-Leigh Curtis runs laps around Julia Roberts for the prostitute with the heart of gold. She’s delightful, intelligent and the perfect partner in crime for Akroyd. Their chemistry is better than most of their modern counterparts.
It’s a dated festive film and there are bits that I’m not entirely sold on, but while the PC police are up in arms, I will be fighting for this film to stay on everyone’s Christmas viewing list.