Mustafa Nuristani writes …
For this year’s Melbourne Festival, programmer Richard Moore compiled his favourite films by John Landis, famous for flicks such as the video clip for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Coming to America, and The Blues Brothers. For this screening, Landis himself was at the theatre to introduce Trading Places. Addressing the audience, Landis asked how many had not seen the film. A total of five hands in the theatre were raised.
The primary lesson in Trading Places appears to be that cruelty for personal pleasure will come at a cost. And when the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) bet with each other on the effects of nature verses nurture on two human beings, the fun really begins. The movie’s hilarious one-liners are a delight, especially Coleman’s (Denholm Elliott’s) eye rolling and snarly, sarcastic comments. And there are several underlying messages in this film, which is not unfamiliar territory for Landis: most of his movies adopt a comedic or tone with bold and powerful messages.
This film is a classic comedy case of the rich getting poor and the poor getting rich. It’s also one of Eddie Murphy’s best early performances, while Dan Aykroyd plays a pretentious and racist man who gets his breakfast in bed (after which Coleman acts as his personal barber). Aykroyd’s character, as Landis said, is one that audiences ‘just love to hate’.
Landis spoke of the difficulty he faced when casting some of the characters (particularly when the casting director thought that Don Ameche was dead). Perhaps most interestingly, his favourite role was the one played by Dan Aykroyd.
‘He does not lose his pretentious tone, even as a beggar,’ Mr Landis said, laughing.
Trading Places screened at the Melbourne Festival on 14 October but is, of course, available on DVD. A huge bucket of popcorn is recommended.