Although Trading Places is nearly twenty five years old it still manages to offer some pretty good laughs, being one of the better comedies out of the 80’s. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Eddie Murphy, and Dan Aykroyd the trio appeared to have some great chemistry together, as they were all at or near the peaks of their careers.
Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers) is a well respected member of high society, manages a commodities brokerage firm for the Duke Brothers and is recentl… engaged to the superficial Penelope. Everything is going well for Louis until Mortimer and Randolph Duke have a bet on the nature versus nurture debate. Mortimer believes that any well breed member of high society can get back on his feet even if everything was taken away from him, and a street urchin would simply fail even if the right opportunity for a bright future came along. Randolph of course believes the opposite and the two decide to wager “the usual amount” on the bet, and before you know it Louis is framed as a drug dealer and a thief. With frozen bank accounts and no house he has only a hooker with a heart of gold, Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies) to count on. Meanwhile Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy, The Nutty Professor) is invited into the posh arms of high society, living in Louis’s house and even taking his old job. It appears that money is already changing Billy Ray, and the street has broken the once confident and in control Louis. Eventually the two see society for what it really is which actually leads to a pretty interesting climax.
Prior to its release on HD DVD it has been quite a few years since I’ve seen Trading Places, and it was a nice treat to catch it again. I believe this movie appeals to just about everyone out there; there are some more adult orientated jokes, but as well some physical humor and slapstick jokes for younger audiences. The fact that I enjoyed this movie when I was very young and enjoy it just as much now just goes to show its wide target audience. Aside from providing a few good laughs this picture also provided some halfway decent social commentary, the character development was perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this movie for me. When people can see how the other half lives they become more empathetic and understanding, but ultimately this movie is a comedy and that’s what it was best at, definitely worth checking out whether for the first time, or if its been a long time.
Presented in a 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio and encoded in VC1, Trading Places looks exceptionally good, especially for a movie as old as it is. I know from seeing parts of this movie on TV and DVD that the difference in quality is extremely noticeable, I was utterly impressed with the quality differential between the original cut and the newly released HD DVD version. The print is in great shape considering its 25 years old. I expected it to contain much more grain and scratches but was pleased to notice the lack of both throughout the duration of this film.
In addition to looking clean I was very happy to see the colors and details were rather sharp, everything from street signs to facial hair was rather readable and noticeable. My only complaint would be in it’s occasionally softness, most noticeable in wide landscape shots and the odd close up. Overall I was very impressive with this rather pleasing restoration from Paramount.
Paramount has included its standard Dolby Digital Plus track for this release of Trading Places, and it sounds rather impressive for its age. Of course a comedy from this era sounds much flatter in comparison to films of the same genre today; Trading Places isn’t an exception. With that being said, you can correctly presume that the track is very front heavy with few instances that will use all channels, but this isn’t completely negative because the dialogue is presented very well. Overall the dialogue sounded crisp and clear, there were very few times when muffled or distorted dialogue was apparent, quite the feat for a movie released in 1983. Music also blended nicely with the dialogue track providing some rear channel and sub support. Even though the track is persistently front heavy it still does a good job presenting its given material.
A nice bundle of special features that aren’t overly impressive but still all good watches, especially for fans of the movie. I was pleased with the inclusion of plenty of archived footage from when the film was first released.
- Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places – 19 Minutes in duration, this is a collection of current day interviews and archive footage with the cast and crew. Both share their memories of making this picture and how it impacted their careers and their lives, a good watch for fans of the movie.
- Trading Stories – Archive footage from 1983, the cast are interviewed about who they would trade places with if they could, or if they were put into the same situations as their characters. Surprisingly pretty interesting too watch and has a few laughs, 7 ½ minutes in duration.
- The Deleted Scene with optional commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey Jr – One deleted scene that was completely useless to the story arc, really not worth checking out.
- Dressing the Part – A look into the costumes of the characters, ranging from rich to poor the costume design is showcased.
- The Trade in Trading Places – An in depth look on the exchange floor in the New York Stock Exchange. An interesting look into the hectic world of stock trading, I would recommend checking this short 5 ½ minute featurette out.
- Trivia Pop-Ups – Interesting tidbits about all thing Trading Places that pop up throughout the movie.
- Industry Promotional Piece – Director John Landis introduces an improvised scene between Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in the form a pitch for the movie.
I was pleased that this picture held up to what I remembered it being, a good movie to throw in and have a laugh too. Although it’s far from being my favorite comedy movie it’s definitely worth checking out for those of you that haven’t already, and if you’re already a fan of the movie then I could with some confidence recommend the purchase of this HD DVD. It looks very nice for its age, and sounds quite nice as well; with the addition a decent set of features I was quite pleased with the overall quality of this disc.
Special Features List
- Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places
- Trading Stories
- The Deleted Scene with optional commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey Jr
- Dressing the Part
- The Trade in Trading Places
- Trivia Pop-Ups
- Industry Promotional Piece