Just a couple of days ago I mentioned in my Beverly Hills Cop review that I hadn’t seen any of Eddie Murphy’s early films. I realised afterwards that this was incorrect as years ago I’d seen an even earlier movie, Trading Places. It just so happened that I’d recorded that very same movie a few weeks ago and watched it again yesterday. Trading Places is a satirical comedy in which two very wealthy commodities brokers mess with the lives of an employee and a homeless man for their own amusement. Their nature vs. nurture argument leads to a bet that they can turn a poor, uneducated black man (Eddie Murphy) into a wealthy broker while simultaneously turning their suave and successful employee (Dan Aykroyd) into a bum who turns to crime.
Despite its liberal message Trading Places is all over the place morally and much of the humour is derived from racist or offensive material. It’s not a particularly funny film in general but is well made and despite the inherent moral problems with the story, the plot is engaging and thought provoking. The film opens with a montage which sites the differences between Philadelphia’s rich and poor. In the inner city kids are seen playing in littered streets and men huddled round burning drums while in more upmarket areas, people are waited on by butlers and enjoy fine cuisine. This difference is then extended to the introduction of the central characters.