Trading Places: Revisiting a hilariously ‘real’ film
Trading Places is my favorite Holiday flick. It’s a hysterical comedy and a definite ‘must see’ whenever I'm in the mood for a good laugh. I’ve watched it countless times and and have been known to say the lines right along with the characters. I first discovered the VHS as a kid. When I was young, my parents didn’t have any strict rules or prohibitions about watching vulgar or profane content in our household. The film is a modern take on The Prince and the Pauper. A wealthy commodities broker and a panhandling con artist are entangled in a sinister bet orchestrated by two conniving old men conducting a social experiment. The film came out during the prime of Eddie Murphy’s comedic reign. Dan Aykroyd was great in his role of a pampered man whose downward spiral unleashes a surprising dark side. After finding out about the bet the two men join forces and eventually take the two old men down.
Humor aside, the film went all in with satire to deliver some jaw dropping ‘realness’. The satire poked fun at the very real disparity between the uber wealthy and the poor. It’s a look we don’t often take of ourselves and is necessary from time to time...keeps us humble. That scene when Randolph and Mortimer sneak into the bathroom to discuss the bet where, unbeknownst to them, Valentine was in a stall eavesdropping is just about the realest thing I’ve ever seen on screen. There are many brash and racist comments made by the two old men where they casually dropped the ‘N’ word, something you might not see in comedies today, satire or not.
Comedies will always be racially charged and stereotypes will always provide material for many comics, but the reality is we are living in harsh divisive times. People are sensitive, Hollywood’s being called out on its lack of diversity and inclusion, and we are in the midst of a presidential administration that many feel is bigoted. People are divided more than ever, name-calling and threatening one another over politics and religion, or any other trigger subject sure to infuriate people. And then I watched the movie Trading Places, one of my all time favorite films, and it reminds me of a simpler time. It’s a testament to the golden times of uncompromising humor and offers a glimpse into a less complicated era in comedy, where white and black sat in theatres and laughed with and at each other without reproach, each leaving and knowing they’d watched a wonderful movie.