I have spent the last couple of days attempting to convince my wife that the movie Trading Places should be considered a Christmas movie. Unfortunately, I have yet to succeed in this endeavor (thus far). But hey, If I have learned anything from watching Christmas movies it is that faith is more important than evidence. But there is tons of Christmas themes in the film, for one the entire movie takes place around Christmas but it also falls in line with… well… the spirit of Christmas! Above all else, it teaches us that anything can happen and that if you are truly a good person, good things will come. Additionally, it teaches us about forgiveness as well as not to judge a book by its cover… and it is a rags-to-riches story!!! What is more Christmas-y than that?
Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy). An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings than installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.
This is one of Eddie Murphie’s best films and the humor hasn’t lost much considering that it is 32 years old now. I love seeing the transformation from dirty street-bum con-man to professional executive. He plays both parts really well and is likable at either end of the spectrum. He’s super smart in spite of acting like an idiot from time-to-time as really doesn’t blindly trust the Mortimer and Duke. Watching a movie like this honestly makes me miss the good-old-days where Eddie Murphy played in hilarious or raunchy films. He switched to family friends a long time ago and has never really been the same since…
But Dan Aykroyd, to me, is the best part of this film. His fall from grace is where the crux of the film gets its feel of redemption. If you had only seen Billy Ray Valentine’s side you would only see a benevolent side to Mortimer and Duke, but add in their betrayal of Winthorpe and you have true antagonists. To make things even better, Aykroyd’s fall is done so innocently on his part… His character is genuinely innocent and all he knows is that he feels as if someone is deliberately attempting to ruin his life. All the while he never questions the allegiance of those closest to him until their trust is tested and they fail. He had everything previously, a great job, tons of money and a loyal gal… all of that is stripped away from him for exactly one dollar and what ensues from that is a classic drunken Santa Claus that is Dan Aykroyd who was previously sophisticated and level-headed. He is left with nothing and when he attempts to sneak into the company Christmas part dressed as Santa, he steals food from the buffet table (putting meats and other things in his coat) and attempts to frame Valentine in a misguided attempt at vengeance. The scene is truly a classic!
All-in-all this movie can be enjoyed any time of year, but should be best enjoyed during the holiday season. It gives you the warm and fuzzies all over. in spite of its ‘R’ rating it has a generally positive message and is a true rags-to-riches story mixed with a redemption story. It may not be one to watch with the children around as there is tons of swearing and a decent amount of nudity. I did say it was classic Eddie Murphy right?
In 2010, as part of the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act, which was to regulate financial markets, a rule was included which barred anyone from using secret inside information to corner markets, similar to what the Duke brothers tried to do in the movie. Since the movie inspired this rule, it has since become known as the Eddie Murphy Rule.
Several funny moments in the film came about by accident. The scene where Mortimer is trying to catch the money clip and having trouble wasn’t supposed to happen that way, but both kept going with it and not breaking character, so it was kept in. Ophelia’s “Swedish” disguise came about because Jamie Lee Curtis couldn’t do the correct Austrian accent.
Every year Italian channel “Italia 1” broadcasts the movie in Christmas Eve nightfall.
In the opening montage of Philadelphia there is a shot of the Rocky statue erected inRocky III (1982) that was released the previous year and was still sitting at the top of the “Rocky” steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The statue now resides at the base of the museum steps.
The Westin Hotel in Philadelphia has a restaurant named Winthorpe & Valentine after the main characters in the movie.
Richard Pryor was originally considered for the role of Billy Ray Valentine.