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USA 1983
Directed by
John Landis
116 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Trading Places

John Landis’s classic 1980s comedy is far from outstanding but it has a neat, well-executed premise that benefits from its broad sub-textual satirizing of Reagan-era corporate capitalism.  Then there’s the spot-on performances and, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis topless.

Dan Aykroyd plays Louis Winthorpe III, an Ivy League commodities broker in the firm of Duke & Duke which is run by two decrepit Wall Street plutocrats (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) who, taking opposite sides in the nature/nurture debate, decide to see whether they can turn Louis into a crook by stripping him of his inherited  privileges and, get the opposite outcome by replacing  him with a black man (Eddie Murphy) who scams a living as a blind, legless Vietnam vet.

From the get-go the film is a lot of fun with the four principals giving excellent performances off the back of well-written characters.  Ackroyd is priceless as the smug possessor of a silver-spoon lifestyle that is taken from from him with brutal rapidity whilst Murphy, then along with Richard Prior, pioneering the kind of potty-mouth, jive-talkin’ nigga persona that subsequently became a standard feature of American comedy, is also engaging as his opposite number.  Bellamy and Ameche are perfect as the complacently heartless moneybags and Denholm Elliot delivers a nice turn as Louis’s disgruntled manservant although it is Jamie Lee Curtis’s bosom that must have occasioned more home video rentals by teenage males than any other scene in the history of cinema.

The film is less compelling once the tables are turned on the Duke Brothers as the plot moves away from the challenges the two leads experience in their novel mutatis mutandis settings and heads for a predictable and facile feel-good resolution.




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