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Trading Places (1983)
Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film, of the satire genre, directed by John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It tells the story of an upper class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of an elaborate bet. The storyline has been commented upon as a modern take on Mark Twain's classic 19th century novel The Prince and the Pauper. Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis also star. The film was written by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod and was produced by Aaron Russo. It was released to theaters in North America on June 8, 1983, where it was distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film earned over US$90 million during its theatrical run in the United States, finishing as the fourth highest earning film of the year and the second highest earning R-rated film of 1983. Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis won the awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively, at the 37th British Academy Film Awards.
Now legendary, the film has been referenced and homaged to an extent matched by few other recent films. It's a classic story: Greedy Phildadelphia commodity brokers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (the inimatable Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) bet the sum of $1 on a 'scientific experiment,' namely that they can depose their successful managing director Louis (Aykroyd) and replace him with a common street bum named Valentine (Murphy).
Sure enough, after planting a little PCP on Louis and installing Valentine in Louis's cushy house, the bet is paid. But Valentine finds out about it, and with the aid of the now rock-bottomed Louis and the hooker (Jamie Lee Curtis) who's been taking care of him, they decide to get back at the Duke brothers (and their massive fortune).
Despite some nagging plot holes (involving a pretty simplistic look at the financial world which makes ruin far easier than it really is), Trading Places is a riotous success on the strength of its fantastic comedy and engaging performances from both leads and supporting characters. Denholm Elliott, as Louis and Valentine's butler, is perfect as always, but it's Bellamy and Ameche who nearly steal the show. Their explanation of pork bellies to Valentine -- 'like you might find on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich' -- is so priceless it leads Murphy to stare straight into the camera with the perfect deadpan expression.
It might be drowning in '80s kitsch, but in its day Trading Places was a massive hit, and rightly so. Wildly funny and perfectly cast, this is Murphy and Aykroyd at the top of their game.
The new special edition includes several making-of featurettes, a trivia pop-up track, and one deleted scene.