Over the years, many cast members of Saturday Night Live have gone on to have successful movie careers. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd both started out on the show. They worked together on Trading Places, a comedy from 1983.
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Randolph and Mortimer Duke were brothers who had made a fortune as commodity brokers. The brothers enjoyed making bets with each other from time to time. Louis Winthorpe III worked for the Duke brothers and was also a successful commodities broker with a nice home, a butler named Coleman, and a rich, high society girlfriend named Penelope. Louis became the focus of the newest bet between the Duke brothers after his accidental meeting with Billy Ray Valentine, a small time con man. The brothers bet on if they can turn Billy Ray into a successful business man while also trying to ruin Louis’s life by setting him up for a crime he didn’t commit so he would lose his job, home, and friends.
Billy Ray quickly took to his new life while Louis struggled to survive. He ended up with only Ophelia, a young prostitute as his only friend. She decided to let him stay with her and agreed to try to help him get his life back. Billy Ray learned about the bet and decided to let Louis know. The two men then came up with their own plan to get revenge on the Dukes with the help of Ophelia and Coleman.
I believe that Trading Places was a very successful movie when it was released. I’m kind of surprised that a sequel or a remake hasn’t been done. I can’t remember when I first saw the movie, but I think it was on television. I have seen it several times over the years and I still enjoy it. I thought that the movie was fairly unique with some surprised that kept it from being predictable overall. I did discover after watching the movie this last time that the plot was similar to Hoi Polloi, a Three Stooges movie from 1935.
Trading Places started off slower while time was taken to introduce Louis, Billy Ray, the Duke Brothers, and set up the situation with the bet. The movie was mostly focused on what happened to Billy Ray and Louis after the Duke brothers put their bet into motion. Things did get more interesting once Billy Ray learned about the bet and went to Louis so the men could come up with their own plan to deal with the Dukes. That plan did deal with certain things going on with the commodities market, so that aspect of the movie was slightly more complicated. The movie was really straightforward even though a lot was going on. That did help keep the movie interesting. The movie was fairly fast paced with everything happen in a short time around Christmas. Elements connected to the holiday, like decorations, did turn up here and there without the holiday being the main focus of the movie.
Trading Places still makes me laugh several times when I watch the movie. Billy Ray and Louis both did several things that I thought were funny. Louis ended up in some bad situations and the way he reacted to those situations did make me laugh. Billy Ray also said and did several things that were funny. I thought a few things connected to the Duke brothers were also funny even though they were slightly mean. Some of the things done to add humor were silly, but I thought they worked for the movie. Other people may think the movie is too silly. Some things connected to the commodities market were explained in different scenes. Those particular scenes did move a bit slower, but they didn’t make the movie boring.
When Trading Places began, Louis was involved with Penelope, a wealthy uptight woman. They were in a committed relationship even though there didn’t seem to be any passion between them. There were no sparks at all and the relationship seemed more like a business arrangement. They sort of had a sex scene that didn’t show anything beyond the fact that they were mechanical in the way they approached sex. Later in the movie Ophelia the prostitute was introduced. She was involved in a few sexual discussions and was topless in one short scene. That was it for nudity in the movie. As things progressed, it did become clear that she and Louis were becoming closer.
Louis and Billy Ray were the most developed characters in the movie, which makes sense since they were the main characters. Both of them went through a lot of changes thanks to the bet the Dukes made. The two men were very different and did not get along the first few times they met. That changed and they seemed to become friends by the end of the movie. Louis was very stuffy and quick to judge early in the movie while Billy Ray was a small time con man. Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy were very good in the parts and worked well together.
There was more to Ophelia than there seemed to be at first. She was a prostitute, but she had a plan for her future that involved her saving most of the money she made. She was actually much smarter than most people thought she was. I really liked Jamie Lee Curtis in the part. I believe this was one of her first movies that wasn’t some sort of horror movie like the ones that made her famous. This was the only movie that she appeared topless in.
Mortimer and Randolph were not nice men at all. They had buckets of money and thought that made them better than others and gave them the right to do whatever they wanted. They meddled in the lives of others with no thought of how the other people would feel. Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy were really good in the parts. Coleman was Louis’s butler who was forced to go along with what the Dukes brothers did. Coleman seemed like a nice guy. Penelope was only in a few scenes and she didn’t seem that likable. Clarence Beeks ended up playing a larger part later in the movie even though he was sort of a flat character.
Don Ameche - Mortimer Duke
Dan Aykroyd - Louis Winthorpe III
Ralph Bellamy - Randolph Duke
Jamie Lee Curtis - Ophelia
Denholm Elliot - Coleman
Paul Gleason - Clarence Beeks
Kristen Holby - Penelope Witherspoon
Eddie Murphy - Billy Ray Valentine
John Landis - Director
Most of the times that I have seen Trading Places has been on television. The movie is edited to remove the brief nudity and was swearing when it airs on regular cable stations. I recently saw the movie again on HBO. I have seen the DVD, but I don’t know what kind of extras are included.
Trading Places was a very funny, entertaining movie that is worth seeing. It has a good idea for the plot that made for an enjoyable watching experience. Fans of Aykroyd or Murphy may also enjoy this one.
Eddie Murphy Movie Reviews
Bowfinger ~ Dreamgirls ~ The Haunted Mansion ~ Norbit ~ Showtime ~ Shrek ~ Shrek 2 ~ Shrek the Third ~ Vampire in Brooklyn ~