Trading Places (1983)
Thirty plus years on and I still find myself quoting lines from this tale of greed and the orange crop reports courtesy of director John Landis and a young set of comedians, Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. So apparently does Kristina at Speakeasy. Rather then an outright Mad Movie Challenge, we thought we’d celebrate the holiday season by both shining the light on this festive comedy featuring old time Hollywood stars Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in substantial roles.
In reality it’s a rather warped updating of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.
It’s the story of an arrogant wealthy young stock broker played by Canada’s own Dan Aykroyd. He’s employed by Randall (Bellamy) and Mortimer (Ameche) Duke. They’re filthy rich and don’t exactly like paying their employees a decent wage. Aykroyd has to point out to Ameche, “Can’t get around the old minimum wage, Mortimer. ”
Into the plot comes a homeless con artist played by Eddie Murphy. Colliding with Aykroyd on the street is about to send the story and fortunes of each actor spiraling out of control. Murphy finds himself arrested on trumped up charges of assault and theft. This leads to a great jail cell scene showcasing Murphy’s comedic skills. He explains to those around him “the quarter blood technique.” It’s a hilarious demonstration of Murphy’s karate skills. ” ‘Cause I’m a karate man! And a karate man bruises on the inside! They don’t show their weakness”
The scientific minded Bellamy believes that Eddie is a product of poor environment while Ameche believes that Murphy has been stealing since he was old enough to crawl. Sounds like a wager is about to take place. What if we turned Aykroyd’s life upside down leaving him on the street and destitute while giving Eddie the benefit of culture and money. Could Aykroyd’s breeding catapult him to success no matter the situation? Would Eddie flounder and find himself back on the streets in no time?
A high stakes wager is agreed upon. Very high.
The old boys use their money and influence to turn Aykroyd’s life into a shambles and bail Eddie out giving him Dan’s old digs and even his butler Coleman. Our butler is played by scene stealer extraordinaire Denholm Elliott. Once again it’s roles like these that allow Denholm to shine brightly even when on screen with such a first rate cast. Here’s one of my favorite quotes concerning Elliott’s scene stealing skills, “never act with children, dogs, or Denholm Elliott”.
Drug dealing and theft accusations leave Aykroyd’s home life reeling. Taking a gamble that Aykroyd might not be guilty of all the incriminating evidence the Dukes have planted at Dan’s feet is stunning Jamie Lee Curtis as a prostitute with a keen sense of business. Possibly even a heart of gold.
With Dan hitting bottom and Eddie rising in the world of stocks and bonds could the pair perhaps call a truce and concoct a bet of their own? How about make a fortune with the soon to be released orange crop report while at the same time put the Dukes in the poorhouse? If you’ve seen Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America then you may already know the answer.
Keep your eyes open for Frank Oz’s appearance in virtually the same role he played in The Blues Brothers as a cop going through Dan’s belongings following his arrest. James Belushi also turns up for some New Year’s Eve festivities onboard a train where some espionage plot points begin to take shape as the gang try to pry some valuable information from the mysterious Mr. Beeks.
“Hey. Back off! I’ll rip out your eyes and p— on your brain. ”
How about some more quotes……
“Religion is a good thing I say, taken in moderation. ”
“By the way, food and rent aren’t the only things around here that cost money. You sleep on the couch. ”
“Mother always said you were greedy. ” “She meant it as a compliment. ”
“He was wearing my Harvard tie. Can you believe it? My Harvard tie. Like oh, sure he went to Harvard. ”
“”Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!”
Getting hungry here, gotta go cause it’s beef jerky time……
Now don’t forget to see what Kristina has to say about Trading Places and a cast of young stars on the rise and three long time pros in Bellamy, Ameche and Elliott.
And oh yeah,” Where’s Beeks? Where in the hell is Beeks? “