2012 Film Challenge #14 - Trading Places

One negative aspect of pledging to write about every film I see for the first time in 2012 is that I will, on occasion, have no choice but to admit to having never seen a film that everyone else already has.

And here we have a John Landis film starring Dan Ackroyd, and I've never seen it before. Here we have the film used as proof that Eddie Murphy used to be funny by those who insist that Eddie Murphy isn't funny any more, and I've never seen it.

I have now, though.

It concerns the affairs of men so rich that they've taken to amusing themselves with mad bets. Playing with the whole nature/nurture debate, the theory is that Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy are nothing more than products of their environments. To prove this, they destroy Dan Ackroyd and give Eddie Murphy limitless wealth, a big house and a really important job.

The film sort of falls on the nurture side of the debate as, within days of the switch, Mr. Ackroyd has taken to crime and Mr. Murphy is able to translate his street-smarts into Wall Street-smarts.

Ultimately, though, the point is made that nothing has a more devastating effect upon character and morality than does the love of money. The smug billionaires are eventually brought to justice in the most fitting ways possible – by losing everything they hold dear and being subjected to prolongued gorilla rape.

Yes, the corrupt, amoral Wall Street stock-brokers use racial slurs and play havoc with the lives of others for their own petty amusement.

Those who were children in a world in which films like this exist would grow up to be the Occupy Wall Street generation. Whilst towards the end a lot of the jokes seem to amount to “look how foreign he is!”, all told this thing is every bit as prescient as it used to be.

Plus is involves a scene in which a disgraced Dan Ackroyd dressed as a dishevelled Santa stuffs a salmon down his jacket. Was this the inspiration for Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections? Perhaps. But not even Mr. Franzen could come up with an image more soaked in desperate decadence than that of Mr. Ackroyd eating said salmon through his grubby synthetic beard.

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