Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cinematic Advent Calendar - Day 13

Trading Places (1983) - Dir. John Landis

In many respects, Trading Places (1983) is not a Christmas movie. It does however build on many of the themes explored thus far on the list. The film takes a more comedic approach to many of the holiday problems, such as financial stress, depression, and friendship. Set during the holiday season, the film follows the lives of two diametrically opposed members of society. One of them is a pompous, wealthy, commodities broker and the other is a poor, street smart, hustler. The film adds another layer of social commentary to the story by casting Dan Aykroyd as the broker, Louis Winthorpe III, and Eddie Murphy as the hustler, Billy Ray Valentine, playing with the idea of race and representation in a financial class structure. Without going into all the details, the two of them trade places and ultimately rise and fall to one another's previous social standings. The plot, while unique to the setting and characters, is reminiscent of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Mark Twain's The Prince and The Pauper, and especially the Three Stooges short, Hoi Polloi (1935). Set in Philadelphia, "The City of Brotherly Love," Christmas plays a small, but memorable part in the character's lives, ultimately unifying them in a common goal (and yet unexplored holiday theme) - the triumph over miserly men.  

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