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John Landis: The '80s

The Blues Brothers

An American Werewolf in London

Trading Places (July 1/09)

Armed with standout performances from stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, Trading Places undoubtedly (and effortlessly) lives up to its reputation as one of the most impressive comedies to emerge out of the 1980s. The movie details the chaos that ensues after wealthy brothers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) orchestrate a total role reversal for a snooty employee (Aykroyd's Louis Winthorpe III) and a streetwise hustler (Murphy's Billy Ray Valentine) as part of a bet, with the majority of the proceedings subsequently following the two patsies as they attempt to adapt to their new surroundings (which, in Louis' case, includes a friendship with Jamie Lee Curtis' warm-hearted prostitute). It's an unabashedly high concept premise that's employed to positive effect by director John Landis, although it does go without saying that the lion's share of praise for the film's success belongs to both Aykroyd and Murphy - as the actors' exceedingly engaging work ultimately proves instrumental in smoothing over some of the more questionable elements within the narrative. At a running time of close to two hours, Trading Places inevitably winds up feeling like too much of a good thing - with the movie's less-than-enthralling third act the most obvious victim of its overtly flabby sensibilities. It's worth noting, however, that the incredibly satisfying finale - which includes an appropriately mean-spirited comeuppance for Randolph and Mortimer - ensures that the film ends on as high a note as one could envision, with the impressive lack of melodramatic elements during this stretch (ie a fake break-up between Curtis' character and Louis) indicative of the screenplay's reluctance to fall back on the various conventions and clichés of the genre. Trading Places' effectiveness inevitably forces one to lament Landis' slow but steady fall from grace, as the filmmaker - after cranking out such memorable comedies as ¡Three Amigos! and Coming to America - has been woefully absent from theaters since helming 1998's underrated Blues Brothers 2000.

out of

Into the Night

Spies Like Us

Three Amigos

Coming to America

About the DVDs: Paramount Pictures presents both Trading Places and Coming to America as full-fledged special editions, as the two films come armed with a whole host of bonus features (including behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and much more).
© David Nusair