An easy, feel-good classic
- Trading Places review by NP
I've always loved this film and whilst repeated viewing diminishes it slightly, it's still worth a watch when you need something undemanding. It's a cross between Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and The Prince and the Pauper, comedically depicting how people's lives can be dramatically influenced by circumstances. Two wealthy bankers have a bet on whether a poor, petty criminal can be turned into an upright citizen, whilst a rich 'decent' man can be simultaneously delivered to the gutter. Murphy is superb and owns the screen throughout, making the viewer side with his character from the start, so much so that when he breaks the '4th wall' it doesn't seem in the least bit daft. Dan Ackroyd is a dependable fall-guy as his privileged world quickly unravels, but special mention must also go to Denholm Elliot as the butler; the scene where Murphy gives him what appears to be the first 'thank you' he's ever received is genuinely quite moving.
It's doubtful this film would be made in the same way today and many young people will be shocked by the racist language and cultural stereotypes - there is some 'blackface' too, albeit with collaboration from Murphy's character. It's of its time and should be taken in that context. In any event, there's no doubt that Murphy is the number one hero of the story and the film certainly did not do him any harm. Jamie Lee Curtis has plenty of showing off especially in one scene, which also seems gratuitous now but her mishandling of the Swedish backpacker character is hilarious - she's dressed in German Lederhosen but couldn't pull off a German accent, so settled for an equally bad Swedish one and this is then alluded to in the script.
It's old fashioned slapstick for sure and you may not like it but if you do, try 'Coming to America' afterwards. There's an unexpected link.
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