Trading Places DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

A great film that reminds us how great Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy can be.
  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A great film that reminds us how great Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy can be.
THE BAD
No commentary track by John Landis.
THE FEATURE
If you want to be reminded of just how comically brilliant Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are, you would be wise to screen Trading Places. This movie tells the semi-intricate tale of rich man Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and street hoodlum Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). After meeting one another in the most awful of circ*mstances, Winthorpe's bosses Randall and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) decide to do a little social experiment. They wager that if they put Winthorpe in Valentine's social situation (and Valentine in Winthorpe's) that both of these men will rise to the occasion. With the bosses placing their money firmly on a man of their choice, the game is on and lives are ruined in the process. Eventually, after hitting rock bottom, Valentine finds out about this ruse and he and Winthorpe team up to exact their fair share of revenge.

What makes Trading Places such a great movie is the acting, writing and directing. This film could have become slapstick or it could have gone off the deep end had it tried to go strictly for laughs. However, director John Landis seems to be reveling in the material and players he has to work with. He simply seems to have set up the camera and allowed his performers to bring what they bring to each role. This serves the movie quite well and makes Trading Places a film to own and watch again and again.
THE EXTRAS
Inside Trading: The Making of Trading Places and Trading Stories

I put both of these sections together because I feel they could have been cut together anyway. Inside Trading is a look at the making of this movie. We find out how it was initially called "Black and White" and how Paramount initially balked at some of the casting. The interviews are mostly new with Eddie Murphy's being the only one that was done some time ago. Okay, I know that this actor has accomplished a lot in his career, but is the guy who relegates himself to kids movies, fat suits, and pedestrian humor really in a position to be this pretentious? Trading Stories is a bunch of interviews that were conducted when this movie took its act to the UK.

Pop-Up Trivia

The Trade in Trading Places

As someone who finds the stock market to be a very interesting place, I really enjoyed hearing real life traders talk in this section. In fact, my biggest problem with this featurette is that it isn't long enough. I know that this movie isn't about the stock market per se, but at the same time it is about the market. It examines the rich and powerful and the fact that this movie was set in the 1980s is not to be forgotten. I am not saying watching this section is going to make you the next Warren Buffet, but if nothing else it will show you the far reaching effects of this fun, little film.

Dressing the Part

Deleted Scene

Producer George Foley Jr. provides a commentary track for this scene. I wish that I could say that it really opens up the movie and makes us look at Trading Places in a new light, however that isn't really the case with this scene. I would say watch it yourself without the commentary, then watch it with the commentary and decide how this added scene makes you feel.
THE VIDEO
1.85:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer. I go through so many formats (Standard, HD-DVD, Blu-ray disc, etc.) it's hard to tell what is what. This standard release looked pretty darn nice. The colors seem to have held up well through the DVD compression, but this movie's presentation isn't such that it would be noticeably apparent if the look wasn't up to snuff. The scenes are all classically composed and there really aren't any camera tricks. Due to the simplicity of how this movie was shot and edited, I think that accounts for it holding up so well in this Special Edition DVD.
THE AUDIO
English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). This movie being a comedy, it is a must that the audio is top notch. After all, if you can't hear what the characters are saying than how the heck can you laugh? Thankfully, Paramount has done a very solid job with the audio here. They don't really use the sound to get us into the characters heads, in fact it's mainly used to give us an idea of place and time. Who knew that years later these small things would help us put a film like this in perspective?
THE PACKAGE
Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are shown on this front cover with enormous smiles on their faces as loads of money are laid out all around them. (This, as I recall, was a similar image used when this movie was first released). The back of this DVD packaging features more pictures from the movie, a description of Trading Places, a Special Features listing and system specs.
THE FINAL WORD
I remember seeing this movie in the theater when I was quite young. I can't say that I fully understood what was going on, but I really enjoyed what I was seeing. You have Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd being funny, Jamie Lee Curtis showing her breasts, and a litany of comic moments that seemed to organically build on one another. I can't say for sure that I even understood the plot, yet Trading Places had something that made it work. It was funny without meaning to be. It made a statement without calling attention to the fact that that is precisely what it was doing. Even today I watch this film and I am not 100% sure that I get everything. Yet, after all these years the biggest thing I have learned is that that isn't really the point. I am just supposed to smile and have a good time.

Trading Places is a comic gem that will be talked about, screened and loved for as long as movies exist.

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