Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trading Places (A Shitmas Post from Tiffany Santiago)

25 days of Shitmas presents Trading Places, a retrospective by Tiffany Santiago

When I think of the movie Trading Places, not only is it one of the funniest movies ever made but I also think of a great time where racism had no boundaries in film, and how Jaime Lee Curtis had the most perfect breasts I have ever seen! I also look at this John Landis directed masterpiece and it's incredible cast and I think to myself "This shit is just as funny now, as it was 30 years ago!!"
Trading Places is a 1983 film directed by the genius John Landis who also directed such gems as An American Werewolf in London, Animal House, Blues Brothers, and Coming to America. It stars a young Eddie Murphy as a down on his luck street hustler who trades places with commodities broker rich boy Dan Aykroyd due to a bet placed by two old bored cheapskate millionaires the Duke brothers, played awesomely by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche. Eddie Murphy plays Billy ray Valentine whose life goes from rags to riches over night and Dan Aykroyd who plays Louis Winthorpe who loses everything with the help of Paul Gleason (principal in Breakfast Club) who plays tough guy hood Clarence Beeks. So needless to say all hilarity ensues! Throw in hysterical dialogue with great comedic timing plus Jaime Lee Curtis and her perfect breasts and you've got an awesome movie! Trading Places is easily in my top 5 favorite movies ever!

The movie takes place in Philadelphia (shout out to Tom). Anyway, the movie starts off showing shots of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love! We're introduced to Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorpe who has a comfy, rich life. He even has a butler named Coleman played brilliantly by Denholm Elliot from Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also has a rich, prissy, spoiled but hot fiance' Penelope.The Duke brothers are rich, and bored cheapskates that wager a bet against each other that switches the lives of Winthorpe and Valentine who are not only on opposite ends of social hierarchy but also completely different races and both suffer culture shock once the switch unwillingly takes place. Trading places was released in 1983 which was right smack in the Reagan era. In a time where a recession and the stock market severly affected people of all races, age, and working class, Trading Places brought that all together and mocked it in all its 80s glory!

So Randolph and Mortimer Duke own Duke & Duke, a successful commodities brokerage in Philly. Wintorpe is their managing director. So the Duke brothers witness an encounter between Billy Ray Valentine and Winthorpe which ends Valentine in jail for robbery and resisting arrest. Valentine was begging and hustling on the streets when he bumped into Winthorpe and right away Winthorpe assumed he was being robbed. The Duke brothers had an argument earlier about Nature vs. Nurture and leads them to bet against one another that lead Valentine and Winthorpe to switch lives. One of the most memorable and racist lines I have ever heard are said right after Valentine is arrested. Randolf Duke says “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with him I can prove it!” Mortimer Duke responds in his classic Don Ameche demeanor “Of course there’s something wrong with him. He’s a neeeegro! Probably been stealing since he could crawl.” So wrong yet so damn ignorantly hilarious!!

The Duke Brothers hire Clarence Beeks to frame Winthorpe and plant drugs on him. He is fired from his job, arrested, his fiancĂ© belittles him and dumps him, his bank account frozen, and gets locked out of his house which is owned by the Dukes. Frank Oz makes a cameo as a police officer who searches Winthorpe’s belongings. Winthorpe meets Ophelia played vivaciously by the beautiful and young Jaime Lee Curtis. She’s a prostitute who’s originally hired to sabotage him but actually ends up helping him. She lets Winthorpe stay at her place in exchange for money once he gets back on his feet. I love Jaime Lee Curtis and her portrayal as Ophelia is great! She’s so funny as she brings Winthorpe into reality, whips him into shape, and they manage to fall for each other. All the meanwhile, the Dukes bail Valentine out of jail and claim to help assist underprivileged people. They put him in Winthorpe’s home and job. Valentine takes to the job and even uses street smarts at work.

During the Duke’s Christmas party at their firm, Winthorpe dresses up like Santa Claus and sneaks in to plant drugs on Valentine. The plan goes bust and Winthorpe runs out the building. Valentine goes into the bathroom to smoke a joint that Winthorpe left behind. He then overhears the Duke brothers in the bathroom talk about the bet they placed for one dollar. Right away he leaves to tell Winthorpe, meanwhile poor Winthorpe has hit rock bottom and tries to commit suicide while still in his Santa outfit. Valentine, Ophelia and Coleman nurse Winthorpe back to health. After explaining the Duke’s bet, Winthorpe and Valentine want to get revenge on the Duke’s. They find out that Beeks is in on the Duke’s cornering the market of concentrated orange juice, so they make a plan to sabotage their plan and make the Dukes lose all their money.

Hilarity ensues as the guys try to take the crop report from Clarence Beeks. They meet up on a train as a new years party is underway. These scenes include cameos from Jim Belushi as a drunk passenger(who actually was supposed to be John Belushi) and Tom Davis and Al Franken as baggage handlers on the train. This part is hilarious especially as Valentine, Winthorpe and Ophelia dress up in costumes that do not fool anyone! Beeks realizes their scheme and tries to kill them but is knocked out and put in a gorilla costume and raped by a male gorilla! They manage to get a fake crop report to the Dukes and keep the real one for themselves. 

Back at work on the commodities trading floor which takes place at the stock market in New York City at the late World Trade Center, the Dukes commit all their money to buy and Valentine and Winthorp sell shares of the concentrated orange juice market. This scene is so memorable because it takes place at the World Trade center. Being a New Yorker born and raised here, it’s nostalgic and brings back memories from way before 9/11. Anyway, The Dukes lose all their money and Valentine and Winthorp gain millions!! They see the Dukes and tell them that they made a bet for a dollar saying that Winthorpe bet Valentine that they couldn’t get rich while putting them at the poorhouse at the same time. The Dukes lose everything and  Randolf collapses while Mortimer screams at him. They call for Beeks and then Beeks is shown in the gorilla cage he was placed in. He’s being sent to Africa and no one notices that it’s an actual man wearing a gorilla costume. Haha! Meanwhile the real gorilla is in love with him!

So the very end of the movie shows Valentine, Winthorpe, Ophelia, and Coleman relaxing on a tropical island. Coleman now has a butler of his own! They truly get the best revenge. In 1987, the Duke brothers make a small cameo in another John Landis classic Coming To America. They are homeless living on the street, then they are given some money and announce that “They’re back!” So classic! 
I love Trading Places so much and I appreciate everything about it. It’s hilarious from beginning to end, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jaime Lee Curtis and pretty much the entire cast have excellent comedic chemistry together, and you don’t see a movie that makes fun of race and class like this anymore. This movie also is a great film for the holidays because it takes place on the holidays. The film takes place around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. There are so many great, epic scenes that I tend to quote quite often. The scene when Eddie Murphy is in jail lying and bragging on how he got caught is classic! Then there’s the party that Valentine throws in his newly acquainted home. That scene brought the song “Do You Wanna Funk” into my life and I rock out to it til this very day. This is the first movie where Jaime Lee Curtis showed off her naked flawless young figure as well as her comedic chops. Trading Places brings political satire, capitalization, and raunchiness together the way that John Landis knows how. This movie celebrated its 30 year anniversary this year and it still stands up to the test of time. Happy Holidays folks! And thanks for reading! 

-Tiffany Santiago

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