Released in 1983, Trading Places has the feel of a 1930’s screwball comedy. Set in Philadelphia during the holidays, this modern reworking of Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper concerns two men of vastly different backgrounds who switch places. Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy) a successful commodities broker at the firm of Duke & Duke, enjoys his six figure salary and lots of perks. However, his life is turned upside down when his bosses, wealthy brothers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche, Cocoon) orchestrate a role reversal with a street-wise hustler, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls) as part of a bet.
In a classic battle of nature versus nurture, how will both men react if their fortunes are suddenly reversed? Surprisingly (or not), Billy Ray proves that his years on the streets and in back alleys have provided him with loads of common sense and tenacity, while Louis crumbles at the first sign of trouble. While Trading Places touches on the racial divide and the issue of rich vs. poor, director John Landis (Animal House) keeps things on a largely circumstantial level, going for the laughs.
Trading Places was originally intended for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, who had box office success with films like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. While the duo certainly could have done the job, Eddie Murphy brought an exuberance to the project and his role that couldn’t be duplicated, and Dan Aykroyd proved to be perfect as his straight man. In a scene on a train, Murphy imitates an African exchange student from Cameroon named Nenge Mboko, “Merry New Year!” Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) appears as Ophelia, a hooker turned Louis’ girlfriend. Known largely as a b-movie horror actress up to that point, the role gave Curtis the opportunity to show off her comic talents (it also marked her first nude scene). The British actor Denham Elliott (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), plays Coleman, the Duke brothers valet, who joins forces with Valentine and Winthrop in trying to teach his bosses a lesson.
Having appeared in films since the 1930’s, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy have a lot of fun playing the Duke brothers. They are classic comedy villains who generate laughs and get their comeuppance in the end. Trading Places is a slapstick comedy of the 1930’s, set in the 1980’s. Because of the talent cast, it remains as funny today, as it was when it was released in 1983.
Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video is largely positive. The image is sharp, with just a few moments of slight softness. I noticed some minor edge enhancement, but no but no print flaws were apparent. The film features a natural palette and those hues are replicated nicely. Colors are surprisingly bright and vivid throughout. Blacks are deep and dense, while shadow delineation is above average. A couple of low-light scenes fair less well, but this is generally a fine presentation.
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack won’t blow anyone away, it does provide an open soundfield. Music comes through nicely and we are given a nice sense of atmosphere throughout, Dialogue is clean and concise. Dynamics are solid considering the age of the material.
English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Trivia Pop-Ups: Appearing throughout the film, these act as a kind of commentary when turned on. Little facts about the cast and crew, locations, props, changes made during filming and more.
- Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places (HD, 18:28) In these archival interviews with cast and crew, we hear from director John Landis, screenwriters Herschel Weingrod and Tim Harris, executive producer George Folsey, Jr., and actors Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Eddie Murphy. They share memories of the film shoot, thoughts on their performances and more.
- Trading Stories (HD, 7:59) Filmed in 1983, John Landis, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis discuss their careers and a bit about the film, in a bid to publicize it (they all look so young!).
- Deleted Scene (HD, 3:09) This scene can be viewed with or without commentary from executive producer George Folsey, Jr.
- Dressing the Part (HD, 6:31) Featuring John Landis, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and costume designer Deborah Nadoolman, this is a brief discussion of the clothes in the film and the purpose they served.
- The Trade in Trading Places (HD, 5:25) Landis, New York Board of Trade vice chairman Roger Corrado, proprietary trader Bret Williams, New York Mercantile Exchange chairman Richard Schaeffer and others discuss the business elements of the movie and how these factors work in real life.
- Industry Promotional Piece (HD, 4:18) A promo created to tout the film at an exhibitor’s convention.
- DVD of the film.
- Digital Copy
*It’s worth noting this does appear to be identical in every way to the 2008 Blu-ray release. It is simply a repackaging.
Movie title: Trading Places (1983)
Director(s): John Landis
Actor(s): Eddie Murphy , Dan Aykroyd , Ralph Bellamy , Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, , Jamie Lee Curtis
Genre: Comedy, Holiday