Trading Places (1983)


A manipulative pair of wealthy brothers make a bet which sees a small time criminal and a Wall Street stockbroker filling each others shoes.

John Landis was one of the most consistent directors of American comedies of the time and here we see Frank Capra dragged kicking and screaming into the 1980’s. It’s essentially a comedy of manners with the underlying message that all men are equal give the same opportunities in life, and the snobbery that often comes hand in hand with privilege takes a pummelling at Landis’ deft hand. The rich characters of this film are shown at best to be laughable ninnies and worst, morally bankrupt racists, while Eddie Murphy’s ghetto hustler’s savvy means he is just at home on Wall Street as he is on the streets. Being one of Murphy’s early films he still possessed some of his magic but it’s really Dan Aykroyd who steals the show and all the funniest moments come from his descent into poverty-stricken Hell. Maybe not as funny as I remembered it to be, but it still has a nice mix of morality message and funny lines and the two stars are ably supported by Denholm Elliott as the Jeeves- like butler and Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy as the insidious old coots.

One of the better comedies of the era and it has stood the test of time pretty well.


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