R Dir: John Landis | Paramount | 1h 56min
Plot: What’s it about?
Looking back at the decade that was the 80’s, a lot of things happened and a lot of things happened in the world of film. There were several breakout stars, many of which are still working today. The obvious ones would be the “action” heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. However, let’s not forget those who made us laugh! Eddie Murphy, one-time star of SNL, made quite the name for himself during the “me” decade. Films like 48 Hours, Trading Places, Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop established him as a dominant comedic force. That’s not to overshadow his co-star, Dan Aykroyd, who had started the decade with The Blues Brothers and had a little movie called Ghostbusters. It was quite the time for the stars of Trading Places, one of my all-time favorites.
Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) is a man of means, a well paid employee of the Duke and Duke brokerage with a beautiful fiancee named Penelope (Kristin Holby). He is a little out of touch with the world, but when you’re rich like him, you live in a world all to yourself. On the other side of the coin is Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), who is dead broke and panhandles to raise cash, but he rarely has success. What caused these two men to take such different paths in life? That is the question asked by brothers Mortimer (Dom Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy), who argue over which factors make a man successful. In an effort to settle their debate, they decide to have Valentine and Winthorpe change places, setting up Winthorpe for a fall from grace, while Valentine will be pulled out of the gutter. But will this social experiment really provide the answers they seek and more importantly, will they get what they deserve for tinkering with people’s lives?
This is one of those movies you can watch over and over and without fail, it always entertains. Trading Places has memorable characters, hilarious lines, and some terrific performances, all of which combine to create this classic comedy. The cast is given some great characters to bring to life and not just the leads, even smaller roles here have a lot to work with. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd have the leads and as expected, deliver and then some. Aykroyd’s spiral from the top of the world is priceless, as he really brings the desperation across well. As you can tell from the gimmick for this new version (Looking Good, Feeling Good Edition), Trading Places is loaded with quotable lines and chances are, you’ll work some of them into your arsenal of quips. This new edition from Paramount isn’t a goldmine of supplements, but it does have a few nice additions.
Video: How does it look?
Trading Places is presented in a 1.85:1 AVC HD image. The picture here is more than solid, but is unremarkable and never rises above that solid level. The print is clean in terms of scuffs and nicks, though it does have some grain, but that never amounts to much. The colors are natural in scope and retain proper brightness, while black levels come off as accurate and well balanced also. It’d have been nice to see a full restoration of this for the “anniversary” release, but to be fair – the movie has never really looked that bad. It’s passable, but still visually-pleasing.
Audio: How does it sound?
No, that’s not a typo! The audio here really is a standard Dolby Digital track. The audio here is mostly dialogue driven, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option does find some ways to be on the active side. The music is able to use the speakers well and add some life, while a few scenes have some solid presence also. This is stuff like traffic noises, background audio, and other more subtle effects, but those add to the atmosphere, so don’t discount their value, especially in more reserved material like this. But the dialogue is still the main focus and it sounds great, very crisp and clean throughout.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There isn’t a lot of difference between this version and the one that came out ten years ago (then called the “Looking Good, Feeling Good” edition). In fact, it’s just the same disc with some new cover art. Nevertheless, let’s get started.
- Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places – Your typical EPK with some interviews with the cast, crew, writing staff and some behind the scenes footage. I did find it interesting, but again if you have the 2008 version, you’ve already seen this.
- Trading Stories – An eight minute “vintage” feature has some interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as they provide some sound bites to promote the film.
- Deleted Scene – One is included, with optional commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey, Jr.
- Dressing the Part – This is basically a costume design piece with some insight into what was chosen for the characters and why.
- The Trade in Trading Places – If you don’t quite get how the financial aspect of the film worked (and I didn’t, for quite some time) these Wall Street suits will explain it to you in nearly one syllable words.
- Trivia Pop-Ups – This feature isn’t as en vogue as it was a decade or so ago, it’s a text-based trivia track that pops up throughout the film offering up little tidbits or insights about the movie.
- Industry Promotional Piece – Murphy and Aykroyd promote the film, in character.
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying it – Trading Places is a classic in every sense of the word. It’s one of those movies that I can watch any time of of any day. Add to that, it’s the only place (that I know of) to see a topless Jamie Lee Curtis. That might not mean a lot now, but back in the day…! Paramount’s new anniversary is fairly disappointing, not because it’s poor quality, but it’s just the same disc repackaged. If you own the previous edition – save your money an invest in frozen concentrated orange juice instead.