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John Landis
Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholdm Elliot, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristin Holby
Writing Credits:
Timothy Harris, Hershcel Weingrod

They're not just getting rich ... They're getting even.

Two Wall Street tycoons make a bet on a social experiment — can a bum off the street (Eddie Murphy) do as good a job as head of their company as the current boss (Dan Aykroyd)?

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$90.400 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 6/5/2007

• “Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places” Featurette
• “Trading Stories” Featurette
• Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary
• “Dressing the Part” Featurette
• “The Trade in Trading Places” Featurette
• Trivia Pop-Ups
• Industry Promotional Piece
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Trading Places: "Looking Good, Feeling Good" Edition (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 24, 2007)

In 1983, Trading Places marked Eddie Murphy’s second step toward world cinematic domination. He made his first big move with 1982’s 48 Hours, a solid hit that influenced buddy movies for years to come. 1984 brought Murphy’s greatest success, the smash Beverly Hills Cop. The year’s second highest grossing effort, Cop took in an amazing $234 million and established Murphy as one of the biggest box office draws.

Unfortunately, Murphy started to believe his own hype, and most of the films he made for the following decade seemed passable at best; he wouldn’t recover until 1996’s popular Nutty Professor. Even since then, Murphy still offers more than a few clunkers, as he maintains one of the most erratic careers imaginable.

But back in 1983, Murphy still had many worlds to conquer, and the consistently entertaining Places offered a fine look at his talents. The movie focuses on two characters: Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy), men at totally different stations in life. Winthorpe enjoys a position at brokerage firm Duke and Duke, where he earns a six figure salary and gets many perks. He plans to marry lovely Penelope (Kristin Holby) and all seems well in his insulated little world.

On the other hand, we find Valentine on the streets. An unemployed con man, he initially pretends to be blind and legless as a scam. After a mild rousting by the cops, Valentine accidentally bumps into Winthorpe and knocks him to the ground. Valentine helpfully tries to hand over Winthorpe’s dropped briefcase, but Winthorpe freaks and thinks Valentine wants to steal it. The authorities quickly descend on him and Valentine ends up in the pokey.

His case attracts the attention of Winthorpe’s employers, the Duke brothers. Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) thinks people’s behavior emanates from their environment, whereas Mortimer (Dom Ameche) believes that genetics determine success or failure. The contrast between Valentine and Winthorpe intrigues them, so they place a bet with each other. They plan to snatch Valentine from the streets and put him in Winthorpe’s privileged place. They set him up in Winthorpe’s house and give him his job. In the meantime, they set up Winthorpe in such ways that he loses his job, his money, his house and his girl.

Luckily for him, Winthorpe meets the proverbial hooker with the heart of gold. Used as part of the set-up, Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) takes pity on Winthorpe and gives him a hand. While Valentine prospers in his new setting, Winthorpe schemes to return to his prior prominence.

The rest of the story follows from there. Some of the film’s humor comes from the “fish out of water” elements, as we see both Winthorpe and Valentine in new situations. However, the flick doesn’t depend on those circumstances as much as one expects. Places seems much more plot-based than I’d expect. Valentine uncovers the Dukes’ bet about midway through the movie, and the rest of the picture mainly concentrates on efforts to turn the tables.

I’ve always liked Places, but it never seemed like anything terribly special. When it works, it does so due to its talent. I believe Places offered the first cinematic meeting between dual generations of Saturday Night Live performers. I suppose you could consider the Bill Murray/Chevy Chase pairing in since they didn’t work on the show at the same time, but since Murray replaced Chase, that seems like a stretch. Murphy enjoyed no connection whatsoever with the show’s original cast, so I think this film provided the first time that actors from the different eras hit the screen together.

While both Murphy and Aykroyd did well in their roles, they didn’t show much chemistry in the scenes they shared. This caused few problems since they spent most of the movie separated, but I couldn’t say that they showed sparks or much compatibility when they appeared together. I don’t know why this occurred. Even though they never worked on the show at the same time, Chase and Murray demonstrated a nice casual tone during their brief shared scene in Caddyshack. Perhaps that stemmed from the fact that neither actor really served as a lead in that flick. It presented an ensemble cast with no particular star, even though many folks primarily remember Murray from the film.

On the other hand, both Aykroyd and Murphy could claim starring status for Places, and some competition between the two may have occurred. That could explain some of the absence of chemistry between the pair; when they shared the screen, I got the feeling each one strived to be the top dog. I can’t say this tendency negatively affected the movie, but I would have liked to see a bit more of a connection between the pair.

When seen alone - which occurred during the majority of the film - both Murphy and Aykroyd seemed fine. As they initiated their roles, both actors portrayed the characters in fairly cartoony ways, but they humanized the men as the film progressed. Aykroyd probably enjoyed fewer solid comedic opportunities, but his relationship with Ophelia allowed him greater depth. Murphy’s Valentine tended more toward the funny stuff, and the actor aptly delivered the goods. He didn’t provide the same level of breakout work seen in his other two early hits - Valentine didn’t get any show-stopping scenes like the bar segment in 48 Hours - but he offered a nice general level of humor that kept the film light.

Places also benefited from a solid supporting cast. The film helped revive the careers of Ameche and Bellamy, and while both characters seemed one-sided, the actors managed to make them lively and entertaining. Curtis generally did well, though she tried a little too hard to break out of her prior restraints. Before Places, she became known as the “Scream Queen” star of horror flicks like Halloween and The Fog. Places existed as a clear attempt on her part to break from that mold. She also wanted to come across as a sex symbol, so she presented copious amounts of skin, and it came across as somewhat forced and self-conscious. Still, Curtis offered a light and charming presence for the most part, so I won’t complain.

Really, I found little about which I could gripe when I watched Trading Places, though the movie didn’t seem quite as hilarious as I recalled. It offered a generally amusing and entertaining experience, and it worked fairly well across the board. It just didn’t excel at much, as it remained a pleasant flick but not much more than that.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B-

Trading Places appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve seen enough Eighties comedies to know that most look a lot alike. They tend to appear drab and bland, and I expected Places to follow suit. However, I felt pleasantly surprised by the consistently positive picture offered on this DVD.

Sharpness seemed quite strong. Virtually no examples of softness appeared, as the movie always came across as nicely crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice a little bit of minor edge enhancement on a few occasions. In regard to print flaws, Places looked pretty clean. Some light grain showed up at times, and I also noticed a few examples of grit and specks, but the vast majority of Places appeared nicely fresh.

As I alluded, most Eighties comedies showed flat colors, but that didn’t occur during Places. The movie featured a naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated those hues with surprising fidelity. The tones came across as nicely bright and vivid, and they always looked tight and rich. Really, the colors were almost a revelation; I really didn’t expect anything this terrific. Black levels also seemed very deep and dense, while shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. However, as with many movies that mix white and black actors, the dark-skinned performers often get the short shrift; some low-light situations that involve them appeared a bit too thick. Despite that, Trading Places usually presented an excellent image that just narrowly slipped down from “A” level.

I also found some pleasant surprises when I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Trading Places. While the soundfield didn’t provide a slam-bang experience, it opened up the spectrum pretty nicely. The forward domain showed very good stereo imaging for the music, and it also spread ambient effects well. The material created a decent sense of atmosphere, and elements moved cleanly across the domain. The rear speakers added a fine general sense of setting, and I even heard some split-surround information. Some of those moments worked well - such as when vehicles traveled from rear to front - but a few came across as artificial. For example, during the scene in which the cops uncovered Valentine’s fraud, I heard some odd blips from the rear speakers; it sounded like those were meant to provide a sense of atmosphere, but they didn’t make much sense. Nonetheless, the soundfield usually worked quite well.

Audio quality also seemed pretty impressive for the most part. Dialogue generally sounded natural and warm. I noticed a few examples of a little edginess, but those occasions occurred infrequently, and I discerned no issues related to intelligibility. Effects appeared clean and accurate. They played a fairly small role in this comedy, but they came across as well defined and showed no issues related to distortion. I felt most impressed with the reproduction of the score. The music seemed wonderfully bright and vivid, and it also demonstrated excellent dynamics considering the age of the material. Even the dance tunes heard during Valentine’s party appeared vibrant and lively, and the bass seemed deep and tight. Overall, the audio of Trading Places lacked the ambition to merit “A”-level consideration, but I still felt surprisingly impressed with the film’s soundtrack.

How did the picture and sound of this 2007 release compare to those of the original 2002 DVD? Both offered identical audio and very similar – but not identical – transfers. I checked out the 2002 disc again for this review and noticed some of the source defects differed. A few flaws showed up for both images, but some didn’t. In any case, these remained minor, and the two transfers ultimately looked a whole lot alike.

While the old 2002 disc included no extras at all, the 2007 “Looking Good, Feeling Good Edition” presents a smattering of supplements. A subtitle commentary appears via Trivia Pop-Ups. Throughout the film, we get text about cast and crew, sets and locations, clothes and props, story elements and changes from the script, real-life influences, explanations of movie components, and other trivia.

This track offers a nice look at the film. We find plenty of interesting facts along the way. Most of these do fall into the “trivia” category, so don’t expect a full discussion of the movie’s creation. However, the notes prove fun and illuminating, so the “Pop-Ups” are well worth your time.

Most of these come from some featurettes. Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places lasts 18 minutes, 27 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival elements and interviews. We hear from director John Landis, screenwriters Herschel Weingrod and Tim Harris, executive producer George Folsey, Jr., and actors Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Eddie Murphy. The show looks at the project’s origins, story and script, casting and performances, some favorite scenes and memories of the shoot.

Don’t expect a very detailed look at the film’s creation from “Insider”, as it stays pretty superficial and anecdotes. Nonetheless, it throws out some good notes and entertains along the way. Some of the info repeats from the trivia track, but we get a reasonable amount of new material in this enjoyable show.

For the seven-minute and 58-second Trading Stories, we get comments from Landis, Curtis, Murphy, and Aykroyd. Taken from 1983 sessions to publicize the movie, they discuss aspects of their careers and a little about the flick. These prove surprisingly interesting, as they offer a nice contrast to the more modern interviews.

One Deleted Scene fills three minutes, nine seconds. It shows us how Beeks steals the crop report. While that makes it a decent piece of plot exposition, the sequence itself is way too long and slow to make sense in the film. We can view it with or without commentary from Folsey. He explains where it would’ve gone in the movie and why it got cut. Folsey’s remarks are useful, though he seems to think it’s a good scene, and I don’t agree with that.

Dressing the Part goes for six minutes, 30 seconds, and features Landis, Aykroyd, Curtis and costume designer Deborah Nadoolman. We get notes about the clothes used in the movie and the purposes the served in the flick. This offers a quick but very informative glimpse into the thoughts behind the costumes.

During the five-minute and 24-second The Trade in Trading Places, we locate remarks from Weingrod, Landis, New York Board of Trade vice chairman Roger Corrado, proprietary trader Bret Williams, and New York Mercantile Exchange chairman Richard Schaeffer. They discuss the business elements of the movie and tell us how these factors work in real life. The text commentary does some of this as well, but “Trade” offers a nice primer on the business aspects in the story.

Something unusual comes our way with an Industry Promotional Piece. It lasts four minutes and 17 seconds as it shows a promo created to tout the film at an exhibitor’s convention. We see Murphy and Aykroyd improvise a bit to sell the flick. It’s amusing and this is a cool extra.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Dreamgirls, Norbit, and other Eddie Murphy efforts. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area. No trailer for Places shows up here.

More than 20 years after its initial release, Trading Places remains a reasonably charming and amusing piece of work. While the flick doesn’t excel at much, it maintains a nice sense of lightness and humor that allows it to succeed. The DVD provides surprisingly solid picture and sound along with a mix of pretty enjoyable extras.

I like Places and recommend it. If you don’t own the DVD already, definitely go for this new “Looking Good, Feeling Good” edition. However, if you do have the 2002 release, only “upgrade” if you want to get the extras. Both visuals and audio seem very similar for the two discs, so you won’t find improvements in those domains. The new supplements are fun, though, and worth a look.

To rate this film visit the original review of TRADING PLACES

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main