Countdown to Claus: Trading Places (1983)

Back in the day when these two guys were golden.

A down-and-out con artist (Eddie Murphy) trades lifestyles with a well-to-do investor (Dan Aykroyd, all because of a cheap bet between two wealthy power players (Done Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). Add a prostitute with a heart of gold (Jamie Lee Curtis) and craziness ensues.

Director John Landis is a guy that I could never really get into even though he has so many films that are regarded as “classics”. However, seeing that it is Christmas time and that I need to start getting rid of some of the DVDs I have stacked up and never watch, I thought this was a pretty good pick.

The premise is a fun and inspired one right from the get-go and you see how these two different life-styles create two different types of great characters. The dialogue itself is very funny because it’s not one of those cheesy and lame 80’s comedy scripts where they say something dirty and it’s supposed to be hilarious. Instead this film is edgy and has a lot of great moments where you either chuckle or laugh-out-loud, depending on the type of person you are. Landis also does a great job here behind the screen because he balances out the original screwball premise with the modern use of comedy.

A problem I did have with this flick was the fact that the comedy gets a little dry at moments, and I sort of found myself barely laughing for some pretty long periods of time. This doesn’t get dramatic by any means necessary, but it just feels like it focuses more on the plot and what’s happening, rather than actually being funny. I also could not believe how some people go to school and study how to be a successful Wall Street investor for about 3-4 years, but I guess if you’re Eddie Murphy it only takes about 5 minutes. This was a little strange and thought it was some lazy writing in trying to get us to see how much being a street-folk, like Murphy’s character, would benefit being a Wall Street investor.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that it tried to be a splitting satire on Wall Street and very wealthy people, but for some reason, a lot of this just fell flat for me. There’s not much bite here even though it pretends like it’s actually saying something about the business world and the difference between social classes. Overall, this just felt like an unnecessary part to have in this flick, considering they could have easily just relied on the comedy they had going on here in the first place.

The real reason this film works and is so funny is because of its hilarious cast. Dan Aykroyd is very funny as Louis Winthrope this dude who I thought I was going to hate the whole time, but instead, I ended up really getting behind his character and the way Aykroyd plays this upper-class yuppie made me laugh because he’s so good at it. Yes people, I know it’s very hard to imagine, but there was once a time-and-age when Dan Aykroyd was actually funny in films.

Eddie Murphy gives one his funniest performances as Billy Ray Valentine and absolutely steals every single scene he has. He starts out as this very slick and sly con man, who goes through a total transformation as this rich-man but still stays likable and hilarious. Murphy breaks out all of these witty lines (lines that even my mom still quotes) and it also helps that he probably has the best character since this guy is just a good guy in general. I can’t really say much else other than the fact that he’s hilarious here and the real reason why this film is so memorable to be honest.

Let’s also not forget to mention everybody’s favorite part in the film where Jamie Lee Curtis lifted off her top for some big-ass booby time. That’s what I’m talking about!

Consensus: Trading Places may not be as satirical as it may like to think it is, but Aykroyd, Murphy, and Curtis all add a lot to this flick to make this funny premise go beyond its limits.




  1. Oh, I do love this film. It’s one of those movies where it’s on, I have to watch it. It’s a shame of what Eddie Murphy chooses to become now. Plus, Dan Aykroyd isn’t funny anymore.

    • It’s a good one and I think it’s even better to see these two comedic stars at their prime, when in today’s world, they just blow in a way. Thanks Steve!

  2. I thought Trading Places was hilarious, and I even think the satire worked to some degree. A great deal of the stock market is based on perception, and this film manages to play that to the extreme by applying it to the actual people doing the trading. People are told Billy Ray is a slick trader, and because he’s a con man — someone who makes his living by playing on peoples’ perceptions — it works.

  3. I didn’t see this movie until many years after it came out. Because of that I didn’t understand the joke in Coming to America where Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy have a cameo as their Trading Places characters.

    I agree with most everything you said: the movie is uneven at times, Murphy’s character learns the job way too fast, but it is still a movie with a bunch of laughs in it.

  4. I do love getting your take on the “Classics” Dan. Its one of the surest tests as to whether or not the movie is truly standing the test of time.

    I would have to recuse myself from that decision, I’m far too wrapped up in the nostalgia of it…

    Good to see it rated at leat a 7 out of 10…

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