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Trading Places – 35th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

For better or worse, Paramount is delivering two Eddie Murphy classics this month, in honor of their anniversaries. The first is his two-hander with co-lead Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places, the modern take on The Prince and the Pauper, which features Murphy’s hustler taking over the life of Aykroyd’s spoiled yuppie. Trading Places is a beloved comedy from the 80s and while some may be pleased with a new Blu-ray release, just know that there’s almost no difference beyond the inclusion of a digital copy and new-ish box art. Still, there’s a great comedy to take in here.

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Film:

Made in 1983, Trading Places came at a time when Murphy was hot off 48 Hours and Saturday Night Live, right before going supernova with Beverly Hills Cop, his standup and more. Aykroyd was more or less loved for SNL as well, and The Blues Brothers, but 1941 and Doctor Detroit were not exactly hits. Ghostbusters would soon come along as well (and what kind of even crazier legacy would that film have if Murphy was involved?), but Trading Places was an excellent product that came from pairing some great comedic stars with a smart script.

As already mentioned, the story revolves around Murphy’s Billy Ray Valentine and Aykroyd’s Louis Winthorpe III. The schemes of two wealthy brokers, portrayed by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, lead to the Winthorpe and Valentine literally trading places. With just enough time spent establishing the characters in their previous lives, one of the key takeaways has always been the social commentary that comes with the premise. While some of the humor has not aged well by today’s standard (the nature of certain jokes and an ending gag involving a…gorilla come to mind), it only makes so much of a difference when considering how much cleverness there is in this story.

Understandably, placing Murphy and Aykroyd into situations their characters are unfamiliar with leads to comic gold. In addition to the work done to make a very complicated film about stock trades, watching these two bring their natural comic energy to this film leads to some truly classic scenes. Not hurting is the excellent supporting work from Jamie Lee Curtis (who was shedding her image as a prominent figure in horror and proving to have a knack for comedy as well), along with the presence of Denholm Elliot, Paul Gleason, Bellamy, and Ameche.

There’s plenty to reflect on as far as the classic components of this film but watching Trading Places again had me thinking more about the commentary taking place. Especially considering how much things are still the same, as much as they have changed, it’s interesting to see how director John Landis crafted a film that has such a strong focus on showing what it is to reverse people’s places in society in for an audience to have a look at how race still plays a role. It’s heavy-handed, as this is a comedy, but the message is there.

Trading Places continues to have a lot to offer as a comedy, but it’s a whip-smart film as well. Utilizing the strengths of the actors involved and coming from a time when the attention-span of the audience was not too diminished to appreciate a movie that’s not trying to crack a joke every single second, the result is a well-made movie. As a whole, it may not have quite the same replay value as some of Murphy’s other classic 80s comedies, but it’s certainly a film that earns its strong reputation.

 

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Sadly, there’s no remaster present for this edition of Trading Places. This release is sourced from the same master used for the 2007 release, which means it has little to offer to impress in this day of 4K UHDs and re-releases. With all that in mind, the image detail is good enough. Natural film grain is present, but there is still enough to admire in the level of detail present. This is especially the case when considering the different types of locations that range from fancy buildings to areas of poverty.

Depth: The spacing of the characters never registers as flat. Dimensionality is clear enough for this to work.

Black Levels: Shadows and black levels are only so deep, but they don’t ruin the experience by any means. Very minimal crushing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are presented decently enough, though the next film to cover gets to have a lot more fun in this department. Certain environments and costumes allow for some good looks at the various tones used for the film.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures register well enough. A fresh scan of the film would have made this element stand out more, but for what it is, this is fine.

Noise/Artifacts: Some digital noise in places, but nothing major.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossy Dolby Digital track comes up pretty lacking for anyone expecting more. It’s really the sign of Paramount having no desire to put any real effort in a new release for this film, which is a shame. Not that the movie sounds awful, but a modest presentation for a film that’s already had a previous Blu-ray release shows how lackluster things can get.

Low-Frequency Extension: Despite the presence of a strong Elmer Bernstein score, the film has little pickup when it comes to the LFE channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s not much reach to be found in all of this. The center channel gets the most to work with, while the other channels do what they can to create the appropriate atmosphere.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.

 

Extras:

All of the same extras that have been around since the special edition DVD release are back.

Features Include:

  • Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places (SD, 18:28) – A decent making-of.
  • Trading Stories (SD, 7:59) – Interviews from a U.K press junket.
  • The Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey, Jr. (SD, 3:09)
  • Dressing The Part (SD, 6:31) – A look at the film’s costume design.
  • The Trade in Trading Places (SD, 5:25) – An explanation of the film’s trade-based ending.
  • Industry Promotional Piece (SD, 4:18)
  • Trivia Pop-Ups
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

The good news is Trading Places is a solid comedy that remains a fun picture to enjoy. The bad news is the lack of effort put in by Paramount for this latest release. With reuse of the same transfer, it’s sad that a film like this has to continue to wait to earn a proper restoration to be updated appropriately. Still, there’s a fun film here and some decent extras (even though they are in standard def). And I guess you can enjoy the new slipcover…

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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