Trading Places

Christmas was fine.  The kids had fun, The Wife had fun, I got no sleep; basically, everyone got what they expected to get.  I also got a copy of Trading Places.  The Wife had never seen it.

Although, I’m sure, your first instinct is to question why I would marry a person like this, let me assure you that this type of thing is not uncommon. Until we were married, she had never seen Star Wars, Back to the Future, Ferris Buhler’s Day Off, My Blue Heaven, or Real Genius. She’s still never seen Pulp Fiction (but oddly enough she said she saw Pulp Friction before we met).

So, one night, we put the kids to bed early, used our new stovetop popcorn popper, and watched Trading Places.

I’ve said before: if you don’t end a piece of art well – whether a movie, a book, a comic, or a whole series – people tend to remember it as not all that good. Lost is one of the best shows to ever grace broadcast television, but the last few episodes were drawn-out and anticlimactic and so the show is universally used a warning for writers who make it obvious they don’t know where the story is going. The Matrix is one of the most densely-packed and philosophy-based series ever, but the third one sucked and so it’s universally used as a warning to writers who look like they might burn out. Cerebus is one of the best comics ever published by any standard and yet because the last 100 issues exemplify the writer coasting to a stop, it’s rarely mentioned anymore.

The first 45 minutes of Trading Places is boring with nary a laugh to be found. The Wife commented, “I thought this was supposed to be a comedy.”

I kept saying, “It is. You just have to let it going. It’s a big set-up.” When Eddie Murphy looks at the camera after it was just explained that a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich contains bacon, I thought hilarity would ensue. There was another 25 minutes of story to wade through.

Once the main characters figure out what’s happening (and after we see Jaime Lee Curtis’ breasts – I don’t remember her being so attractive), the comedy begins. There’s a half hour of Dan Aykroyd eating fish from his Santa Claus beard and Eddie Murphy loving beef jerky and Jamie Lee Curtis misinterpreting where lederhosen comes from and Paul Gleason getting humped by a gorilla and Don Ameche saying “Fuck.”

With those last 30 minutes of non-stop laughter, we remember Trading Places as a terrific comedy, an 80’s staple. I believe if it was the other way around, if Trading Places was funny for the first half hour and then introduced a non-funny story to resolve the comedy, I think it would’ve been like John Landis’ latest movies.


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