|Laugh while you can, boys. Comedy is a fickle mistress|
Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) Duke are the owners of Duke & Duke, a commodities brokering firm; alike in so many ways --- style, pride, greed, etc. --- the two seem to have only one major difference in opinion: nature vs. nurture. Randolph is a proponent for nurture; he believes that anyone can succeed in society, if they are given many socioeconomic advantages. Mortimer believes in breeding; essentially, the cream will always rise up to the top. But what can they really do to solve this argument?
|I should mention that they had a knife fight to settle bow vs. regular tie|
|Their explanation for pork bellies cracks me up every time|
|Best. Santa. Ever.|
|Above: the scene where that happens. Not pictured: the table|
I absolutely love this cast. Dan Aykroyd was nearly perfect as a high-born weenie, and his drunken Santa bit makes me smile every time I think about it. Eddie Murphy was also very good as the street-smart Billy Ray; he doesn't get enough credit for how sympathetic he made his character. Jamie Lee Curtis was fine as a hooker with an accountant's mind and sliding scale for impropriety.
|"Exposition while I undress because boobs"|
I normally don't praise John Landis for the pace of his films, but Trading Places is a rare example of a two hour comedy that doesn't have a portion that drags. At least some of that credit goes to the screenplay from writing collaborators Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod; the pair seemed to specialize in goofy-ass concept stories (Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Space Jam, etc.), but they managed to make this Prince and the Pauper update seem only highly unlikely instead of batshit crazy. It is also worth pointing out how much of the humor in Trading Places comes from reactions and not punchlines; that means they wrote this to be an ensemble piece, not a showcase for Murphy and Aykroyd to ham it up, and it actually worked. While the script was pretty good, it is Landis' ability to edit the film to capture all the comedic beats that makes this movie great. Without his eye and ear for timing, this script would have been wasted.
|The lawyer joke following this is so simple, but so effective|
As good as Trading Places is, it isn't exactly a work of art. I love this script, but the entire scheme to steal the crop reports was incredibly stupid. Even if you ignore the Halloween-quality costumes the group wears to travel incognito, there is a bigger problem.
|And I'm not talking about the black-face. This time.|
|Although I see how they thought she could be useful|
That scene is one of the few that treads the line between stupid funny and obnoxiously dumb --- the other is arguably the whole "one gorilla, two gorilla" issue --- but I will commend it for not being dull, at least. Hell, I actually kind of like it, even though it is SOOOO dumb! What makes Trading Places a classic for me, though, are the little touches that I notice more and more with every viewing. Have you ever noticed that Winthorpe's prison numbers are the same as John Belushi's in The Blues Brothers? How about the other tribute to himself that Landis inserted, his customary "See You Next Wednesday" reference?
|Hint: it's above and left of the nipples|