…And she stepped on the ball! Ha ha and ho ho ho, it’s Burl, here with another non-Christmas movie set around the holidays! Of course I’m talking about Trading Places, the comedy classic made by John “Into the Night” Landis! It’s not a particularly Christmasy picture, but it does have a scene in which one of the stars, Dan “The Great Outdoors” Aykroyd, inebriates himself and dresses as a dirty Santa! Then he says “Bluaaaghhhh, blargh!” Ha ha!
We all know the plot! Here we have the rough-edged but good-hearted ne’er-do-well Billy Ray Valentine, played by Eddie Murphy of Beverly Hills Cop fame, and the posh fancylad Louis Winthorpe III, played by Aykroyd; and we have two elderly superwealthies, the Duke brothers, who like to play hob with people’s lives! Ha ha, the plot begins when the Dukes – Bo is played by Ralph Bellamy from The Wolf Man, and Luke is Don Ameche from Heaven Can Wait – make a bet on whether, if they switch these fellows around, putting Billy Ray in the catbird’s seat and Louis in the gutter, Billy Ray will become a respectable commodities broker and Louis a criminal street bum!
There are many misunderstandings and crenulations, and characters like the kindly butler (Denholm Elliot from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), the kindly pr*statute (Jamie Lee Curtis from Grandview U.S.A.) and the not-so-kindly dirtytricksman (Paul Gleason, the well known meanie from Night Game and Die Hard and Welcome to Spring Break and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home) figure in; and Christmas comes and goes, and there’s a train gorilla and some crop reports, and a big final scene on the commodities trading floor!
Well, it’s the oldest tale in the book, really, and the director, young Landis, tells it in his usual straight-ahead style, with a few ingratiating looks into the lens and other trademark moves! Of course, we have to mention how unbelievably quickly Billy Ray turns from jive-talking con man to expert commodities broker, juggling pork belly futures as he used to handle discarded gutter-butts! We expect to withhold some disbelief in a picture like this, but even with that feature engaged, and an understanding of the exigencies of plot movement, it seems a bit of a quick transformation!
But there’s lots to enjoy! The cast is great, even when they’re playing the oldest clichés in the book, like poor Jamie Lee and her h*oker-with-a-heart-of-gold! Eddie Murphy provides one of his finer performances, if you ask ol’ Burl, and Dan Aykroyd does prep-school nimrod almost as well as he does earnest techno-drone, which is saying an awful lot! It would have been nice to see John Candy in here somewhere, but you can’t have it all, I guess! I’m going to give Trading Places three eye-rolling gorillas that were somehow not created by Rick Baker!