Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Merry New Year!

Liam and I were talking about our favorite holiday classics and also about movies shot in Philadephia — and this beloved John Landis comedy scratched both of those itches. Starring a very young pair of Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in one of their earliest lead roles, the film has a special energy of hungry young actors, anchored by the presence of superb veterans like Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy, and Denholm Elliot. The film touches on racial and societal issues, and dodges at least one Hollywood crutch by centering its activity around the commodities brokers instead of the stock market.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Next week’s pick is a horrifying New Year’s film. No, not the one by Garry Marshall. Even we can’t handle that depth of horror. I mean New Year’s Evil, a 1980 holiday slasher from the good people of Cannon Films. Liam and friends recently discussed it on Cinepunx podcast, but we we just felt the need to share this one together as we ring in 2015. It’s streaming on Netflix so please join us!

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

The Team

James:It’s a mark of how great John Landis’s class(ic) comedy is that when I first saw Trading Places as a hormonally insane teenager, Jamie Lee Curtis’s magnificent breasts weren’t actually the best things in it. It’s that knowing, irreverent SNL-style humour, wrapped around a plot that’s still fairly topical in today’s economically tumultuous times, performed by a cracking cast at the top of their game — all presided over by a director going through the purpliest patch of his career.

The comedic chemistry is so finely balanced between crude slapstick and sophisticated satire, with the old-school (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy’s despicable Duke Brothers; the brilliant Denholm Elliot as Hollywood’s greatest butler) and the new (Eddie Murphy on top wise-cracking, improvisational form; Dan Aykroyd’s spoilt prig of an investor with a ridiculous name; the aforementioned JLC doing so much more with the usual hooker-with-a-heart role) putting the effort in to deliver a winning combination of hilarity, heart and brains.

Ignore the incomprehensible stock-brokering gubbins. Trading Places can be enjoyed as a successful class satire on 80s capitalist greed, a refreshingly insightful Christmas Redemption-type morality play, or a sobering reminder of when Eddie Murphy was actually really funny. (@jconthagrid)

Brendan:I miss John Landis, just like I miss Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. All of these gentlemen are still with us, thankfully, but there’s a crushing disparity between the hungry artists of this film and the dead-eyed automatons showing up in studio fluff. Trading Places is one of those movies that could have gone wrong in a thousand different ways, but instead the right team took the right approach and just nailed it. That starts with Aykroyd, who has never been more delightfully nasty than in this film. Other movies amp up Aykroyd’s freak levels until it’s simply revolting, but Landis always had a strong eye for how alien Dan could play things without losing the thread.

And Murphy is genuinely brilliant in this film. You forget just how driven and dedicated he was after all these years, but he comes into every scene desperate to find something funny, and almost always hits.

This is screwball stuff, but done with knife-sharp precision, and given extra weight thanks to Landis’ “Fuck or Get Fucked” ethos for the world. It’s a gleefully cynical little pill right in the middle of the holiday season. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin:This socially-minded comedy from John Landis plays a bit like a modernized (for its time) spin on The Prince And The Pauper, adding in social commentary on race, class, and greed. Landis casted two of his favorite classic actors, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, as the fatcat commodities brokers, a nice counterbalance to the very fresh-faced new faces of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

Murphy is doing some of his career-best work here as a vagrant who gets swept into a world of wealth and greed, channeling a mix of sarcasm, good naturedness, and trampled fury for our entertainment. The movie is very funny and has relatable characters that win the audience’s empathy. The “train scene” has some weird comedic choices that almost send it flying off the rails, but taken as a whole this is just a really lovable comedy. (@VforVashaw)

Liam:Trading Places is as funny now as when it came out. While some of its rough edges show politically/culturally (blackface? really?) its humor still hits home and had me giggling like a crazy person. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are great together, their chemistry highlighting every thing I love about comedies from that decade. Interestingly, while some of the content pushes buttons that today are quite taboo, the over arching political sting of the film seems especially relevant. Landis likely intended the film more as a comment on class than on race, and yet interestingly the racial aspect is clear. No matter what Billy Ray does, no matter how he conforms and even excels in this new world, he can never stop being black. Interestingly, though he does maintain some characteristics, Valentine also changes in important ways to mirror those who now control his fate. He learns their customs, and even surpasses them in the skills they value to succeed. To integrate him fully would cost them little if the world was truly economic. It is not though. Despite his ability to make them money, he is still black, The brothers feel, despite they conversion of him into their mirror image, that he is not worthy. In the end, race trumps class. (@liamrulz)

Our Guests

Justin Harlan:Before we are treated to the genius of John Landis, the darkness inside Dan Aykroyd, the charisma of Eddie Murphy, and the lovely breasts of Jamie Lee Curtis, we are first treated to a pair of rich Wall Street tycoon brothers arguing over whether one’s success is attributed to environment or breeding. This question intrigues them so much that they soon make a bet where they will have their star apprentice forced to switch places with a homeless black man.

The TWO CENTS crew has once again picked a gem that highlights the craziness in the world today. Like the choice of Serpico before it, Trading Places is as potent and pointed a morality tale as ever before. We are forced to wrestle with gender, race, and class in very real ways, all the while getting some signature John Landis laughs.

One definitive scene from this film features Aykroyd in horribly done blackface and Murphy as an exchange student from Cameroon that seems like an early version of Prince Akeem from Coming to America. Both Aykroyd and Murphy are great throughout.

Intelligent, fun, thought provoking… in short, it’s on Netflix, so watch it! (@thepaintedman)

Shawn Porter:One of the fun things about participating in the Two Cents column is the motivation to check out movies that I’ve never seen before or to revisit films I haven’t watched in decades. With Trading Places though… I watch it so often that it rarely leaves my ‘recently viewed’ Netflix Page. I don’t throw the word ‘perfect’ out lightly but this is about as close as you’re going to get.

Eddie Murphy was only 22 when Trading Places (and his iconic standup film Delirious) was released and he nails it. Thirty years later the jokes still work and the race/class issues at the heart of the film still hit the mark, regrettably, using comedy to hold a mirror up to society in ways that would come off as preachy in a dramatic film. That said, I’d be interested in seeing it with a younger audience; the casual use of homophobic slurs, racial epithets and blackface for comedy in the film is something that my generation grew up with so I’m curious how it would play to a first time viewer.

Trading Places works as a social commentary movie, a Christmas movie, a Philadelphia movie, a buddy movie and as a glorious excuse to see a topless Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s streaming on Netflix, but do yourself a favor and grab the Blu-ray; It runs under $10 and has some great supplemental footage (The movie was originally intended to be a Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder film) that makes it worth owning. (@shawnporter23)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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