Pawnbroker in trading places
They witness an encounter between their managing director—the well-mannered and educated Louis Winthorpe III, engaged to the Dukes' grand-niece Penelope—and a poor street hustler named Billy Ray Valentine; Valentine is arrested at Winthorpe's insistence because of a suspected robbery attempt.
The Dukes decide to use the two men for their experiment. Winthorpe is publicly framed as a thief, drug dealer and philanderer by Clarence Beeks at the request of the Dukes. He befriends Ophelia, a prostitute who agrees to help him in exchange for a financial reward once he is exonerated.
Meanwhile, the Dukes bail Valentine out of jail, install him in Winthorpe's former job and grant him use of Winthorpe's home. Valentine soon becomes well-versed in the business using his street smarts to achieve success, and begins to act well-mannered. During the firm's Christmas party, Winthorpe is caught planting drugs in Valentine's desk in an attempt to frame him, and he brandishes a gun to escape. Later, the Dukes discuss their experiment and settle their wager for one dollar, before plotting to return Valentine to the streets.
Valentine overhears the conversation, and seeks out Winthorpe, who attempts suicide by overdosing on pills. Valentine, Ophelia and Winthorpe's butler Coleman nurse him back to health and inform him of the Dukes' experiment.
Winthorpe and Valentine recall large payments made to Beeks by the Dukes and realize that the Dukes plan to obtain the report to corner the market on frozen orange juice. On New Year's Eve, the four board Beeks' Philadelphia-bound train, intending to switch the original report with a forgery that predicts low orange crop yields. Beeks uncovers their scheme and attempts to kill them, but he is knocked unconscious by a gorilla being transported on the train. The four disguise Beeks with a gorilla costume and cage him with the real gorilla.
After delivering the forged report to the Dukes in Beeks' place, Valentine and Winthorpe travel to New York City with Coleman's and Ophelia's life savings to carry out their part of the plan. On the commodities trading floor , the Dukes commit all their holdings to buying frozen concentrated orange-juice futures contracts ; other traders follow their lead, inflating the price.
Meanwhile, Valentine and Winthorpe sell futures heavily at the inflated price. Following the broadcast of the actual crop report and its prediction of a normal forecast, the price of orange-juice futures plummets. Valentine and Winthorpe close their futures position by buying futures at the lower price from everyone but the Dukes, turning a large profit.
Valentine and Winthorpe explain to the Dukes that they had made a wager on whether they could simultaneously get rich while making the Dukes poor. Later, the now wealthy Valentine, Winthorpe, Ophelia, and Coleman vacation on a tropical beach, while Beeks and the gorilla are loaded onto a ship heading for Africa. The storyline of Trading Places —a member of society trading places with another whose socio-economic status stands in direct contrast to his own—often draws comparisons to Mark Twain 's novel The Prince and the Pauper.
Parallels have also been drawn between Trading Places and Mozart 's 18th century comic opera The Marriage of Figaro in which a servant Figaro foils the plans of his rich master who tried to steal Figaro's bride to be. Cavell postulates that film is sometimes used as a new technology in the production and experience of an opera.
He explains that this axiom asserts its importance not in the fact that "our time" sees an increased expectation of new operas being developed but, rather, in the fact that there is an increased expectation of "new productions of operas. David Budd, in his book Culture Meets Culture in the Movies , writes about the experiences of characters when the expected roles of races in society are sometimes reversed.
The fiction film White Man's Burden and John Howard Griffin 's factual book Black Like Me are used as a foundation to show how different the experience of white people can be when subjected to the prejudices faced by black people. In that respect, Budd proclaims Trading Places as "uncannily illustrative if heavy-handed". Beginning from the premise that, in the film, the "expectations of the races also stand upon their head", Budd states that "through even a highly comedic vessel a message loudly asking for a reassessment of prejudice, and for level playing fields, is heard.
Trading Places was released theatrically in the United States on June 10, The film remained in the top ten grossing films for 17 weeks. Trading Places was met with positive reviews from critics. The site's consensus states: Author and critic Richard Schickel of Time magazine called Trading Places "one of the most emotionally satisfying and morally gratifying comedies of recent times". While admitting Aykroyd's success in demonstrating "perfect prissiness as Winthorpe", Schickel commented on Murphy's performance as Valentine calling Murphy "a force to be reckoned with" and stating that he "makes Trading Places something more than a good-hearted comedy.
He turns it into an event. Ebert stated "This is good comedy"; he described the characters as "wonderful comic inventions" that rose above what could have been stereotypes due to the actors' skill and explained that the comedy is successful because it "develops the quirks and peculiarities of its characters, so that they're funny because of who they are.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times repeated some of Roger Ebert's sentiments stating that "Preston Sturges might have made a movie like Trading Places - if he'd had a little less inspiration and a lot more money. The song " The Loco-Motion " by Little Eva is also heard on the train scene and is credited on the film. Almost 30 years after its release, the plot for the movie was part of the inspiration for new regulations on the financial markets. This contrasts with the four letter words and naked breasts on display; both of which date the movie as being from the s.
Trading Places is first and foremost a display of Eddie Murphy's vast and hilarious comedic talent sort of an updated Jerry Lewis. But unlike some of his later movies this one is truly an ensemble. Trading Places is a movie I loved in as a 16 year old. Seen from the vantage point of 30 years later it looks like one of the best comedies made during the s.
If anything, Trading Places has only gotten funnier with age. Can it really be 30 years since this movie was released? If there's any doubt, one look at the cars, the computers, the hair and especially the clothes, will confirm it for you. If that weren't enough, a baby faced and relatively thin Dan Aykroyd will surely drive home the point that this movie was made a long time ago.
Its comedy though, is timeless. This is in part because it's just plain funny, but also because, as Patrick pointed out, there's an old fashioned feel to the movie that goes beyond its 's origins.
It's easy to imagine Capra or Sturgess directing a similar film in the s or s. The presence of Bellamy and Ameche adds to the old Hollywood feel. I agree that Murphy is funny. He was on the cusp of super-stardom at this point in his career. This was just his second film and he was still starring on Saturday Night Live when it was released. He was just one year away from going solo in Beverly Hills Cop , but as Patrick wrote, here he is part of an ensemble cast, all of whom get a chance in the spotlight.
Aykroyd's prissy Winthorpe makes a good foil for Murphy's street-smart Valentine, while generating laughs on his own. Curtis is hot, in a very 's way, including her first nude scene. Her funniest moment comes in the silly train scene when she dresses up in German lederhosen, but speaks with a Swedish accent reportedly because Curtis couldn't do a convincing German accent. I also agree that Bellamy and Ameche are scene-stealers as the Duke brothers.
Although it hardly hurts the humor, there are portions of the story that don't quite work. Valentine goes from a man begging in the street to successfully managing a Brokerage House far too easily and far too quickly.
I know that this is a screwball comedy that at one point uses a man in an ape costume getting raped by a real gorilla as a punchline, but still Valentine's sudden transformation never feels real. Given its box office success, a summer release may have been the right move at the time, but now I, and I suspect others, associate this movie with the holidays.
One unexpected legacy of the film was a regulation put into effect in , known as "The Eddie Murphy Law" which related to the insider trading conducted in this film. The fact that this regulation would take its name from a nearly 30 year old at the time movie, just goes to show how fondly it is remembered after all this time and deservedly so.
Scott wrote how easily Valentine goes from a beggar to a Broker. I agree it is a stretch and will add that Winthorpe as well falls far too easily. Having gone to Harvard, he obviously came from money. Falling from grace at his firm would not erase his family connections.