- Composed by Elmer Bernstein
- La-La Land Records / 2011 / 48:00
A smart and very successful comedy from John Landis, Trading Places offers a meaningful social commentary amongst its laughs. It did big business at the box office, confirming Eddie Murphy’s star power and suggesting Dan Aykroyd had his own after the death of John Belushi. Landis continued his successful collaboration with composer Elmer Bernstein, which had begun five years earlier on Animal House. That film meant comedies were to dominate Bernstein’s filmography over the decade to come, something that grew increasingly irritating to Bernstein, who longed to return to more serious fare – but he certainly gave his all in those scores, and the comparatively adult nature of Trading Places (it has a strong plot, it’s not just a sequence of madcap sketches) certainly appealed.
Landis cleverly suggested to Bernstein that he incorporate Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” into his score, something that worked very well. Indeed, much of the composer’s brief score takes its inspiration from there – so much so that when it came to Academy Award season, Bernstein was nominated in the “Best Adapted Score” category. There isn’t a great deal of original material here – even when not quoting Mozart, Bernstein manages to build in an interpolation of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” and a couple of other cod-classical moments. It all makes for an entertaining listen, big and playful orchestral music throughout. The score only actually runs for 22 minutes (the rest of the album is made up of source music and alternates) but it’s an enjoyable one. ***