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Paramount Studios presents
“It seems to me that the best way to hurt rich people is by making them poor.”
DVD ReviewThe DVD Review is by Kevin Clemons.
Billy Ray (Murphy) and Louis (Aykroyd) are, for all intents and purposes, polar opposites. Louis is a powerful investor who enjoys the finer things in life, including a large mansion and a job at a prestigious firm that affords him all of life's luxuries. Billy Ray, on the other hand, is a small time con man who has a scheme for every occasion but, more often than not, his cons end with his incarceration. His latest con has also landed him in jail, after a misunderstanding with Louis when the two accidentally collide. Enter Randolph (Bellamy) and Mortimer (Ameche) Duke, a pair of millionaire brothers who also happen to be Louis' employers. The two wager a bet after Billy Ray gets out that if Billy Ray and Louis were to trade lives, they would each adapt to their surroundings and turn their lifestyles in opposite ways. For instance, would Billy Ray become rich and powerful, and would Louis in turn become a criminal after spending time on the street?
Trading Places is that rare sort of comedy, one that alternately makes you laugh while at the same time bringing up ideas and situations that are entirely unique. The idea of class structure and race, or nature versus nurture, is far from the typical humor found in lighthearted films and this is perhaps what propels Trading Places into the upper echelon of screen comedies. What is more admirable about the script by writers Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod is that they never ask the viewer to like either Billy Ray or Louis over the other. This results in a masterstroke as when the two ultimately pair up late in the film, it is believable rather than absurd.
The film is relatively restricted to this central plot device, which creates a sort of lull in terms of excitement until an unneeded resolution occurs. The beginning of the film lays the appropriate ground work in terms of plot and character development, but after we see the direction the picture is going and what exactly the motivations of the characters are, it delves into a thirty-minute section that feels detached from the overall tone. The finale is also a problem, as Trading Places into revenge and silliness, leaving behind the sharply observed social study that was promised from the ingenious start.
Directed by John Landis (who is forever guaranteed a place in history for making Animal House) does a fine job in his direction, but given that he has never been an overly visual director, anything out of the norm for him is a compliment. Aykroyd and Murphy give performances that they have rarely matched since, each doing a very nice job of playing what are essentially dual roles. In supporting performances, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, and Don Ameche each turn in nice work.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The image is splendid, with the HD transfer really bringing out the sumptuous surroundings of the club, the office and Winthorpe's home. The textures of the costumes, particularly the Dukes' suits, are palpable. Black levels are excellent, and detail is quite good for the most part. A few shots look as if they were blown up and have a grainy appearance, but on the whole it's clean and crisp.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The score relies heavily on classical music, and the range is generally very good, without shrillness. The sequence of the party has solid low bass. The soundstage is somewhat limited, without pronounced directionality, nor are the surrounds notably active. It's a workmanlike track that gets the job done, cleanly and without attracting attention to itself.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: The old barebones edition is completely superseded by the array of extras that are included here. Although there's no audio commentary, a trivia track offers tidbits throughout the picture. However, its reliability starts off suspect when it tells us in the second piece of trivia that Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro in 1796, when he was already dead for five years. It points out quite a few continuity errors that will bother you every time you see the movie again, so watch with caution. There's a short deleted scenes (with optional commentary) that was included in the television version, showing Beeks stealing the crop report.
Insider Trading (18m:27s) is a fairly standard making of but it includes some behind-the-scenes footage that's worthwhile. All the principals are included other than Murphy. Trading Stories (7m:58s) is a collection of 1983 interview segments featuring Murphy, Aykroyd, Curtis and Landis that offers some entertainment value. Dressing the Part (6m:30s) provides some detail on the costuming, which plays such an important part in the characterizations. If you wanted to know more about commodity trading, you're in luck: The Trade in Trading Places (5m:23s) provides a glimpse behind the scenes of the Board of Trade. The last featurette is a promotional piece shot halfway through filming of the feature for promotion to theater owners (4m:17s). It's absolutely hilarious, as Aykroyd and Murphy improvise and show off their skill for dialect, incongruously placed in a men's room. It's a terrific little piece of ephemera that makes the disc. But where is the theatrical trailer?
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsThe strong questions raised in Trading Places are perfectly complemented by some truly funny moments, as well as a pair of terrific lead performances. Finally, a proper special edition arrives, and it's certainly worth the upgrade.
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