Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Trading Places


It’s about the old nature-nurture debate. Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, two horrible old billionaire brothers, make a bet, one claiming that it’s all about genetics, the other that it’s all about how one was raised, in what sort of environment. To that end, they totally ruin the life of Dan Aykroyd, a smug and smarmy member of the upper classes, and put Eddie Murphy, a fast-talking grifter, into Dan’s luxury-filled life. Eddie proves to be a lot better at commodities trading than either of the brothers expected, but he discovers what their bet was all about. (One brother to the other: “Did you really think I’d turn the family business over to a nigger?”) He and Dan get together and plot their revenge. Together, they bankrupt the brothers on the insanely raucous floor of the commodities exchange in … sigh … the World Trade Center. Even a glimpse of those buildings in the distance in a movie is enough to hurt. The scenes of them walking around outside were even harder to watch.

Concerning how they bring the bastards down … I haven’t a clue. It has to do with cornering the market in frozen orange juice. Financial markets are, and always will be, a mystery to me. All I know for sure is that the way they do it is beyond bizarre. All those men, clutching bits of paper and jumping and shouting like maniacs … do they still do that in this computerized age? If so, how do they keep track of it all? I’d last about ten minutes in there before they hauled me out on a stretcher, and that’s even if I knew what I was doing. I can’t stand crowds like that.

It’s a really grand revenge comedy. Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty good as whore with a heart of gold, and the two old codgers are great, too. But the picture really belongs to Murphy, of course. This was back in the day when he could make a good movie without playing a jack-ass. It can be hard to recall now just how funny he used to be.