The Blues Brothers (1980)

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Jake and Elwood are “on a mission from God,” and like all true believers, they cannot lose. Seriously, nothing stands in their way: Not a suspended driver’s license, nor bandmates wives and new jobs, nor Neo-Nazi rallies, nor country-western bands, nor murderous ex-fiances, nor the entire Chicago police force… These may not be traditional biblical obstacles, but the car chase at the end is one of near biblical proportions.

I’d never seen The Blues Brothers, but was familiar with the characters thanks to Saturday Night Live reruns. Jake and Elwood were never my favorites, but let’s be honest– I couldn’t watch an entire movie about “two wild and crazy guys!” from Czechoslovakia. Really, this is probably the most brilliant thing about this movie. It chooses two characters who won’t get annoying after a few minutes, and builds a plot around them that makes sense for those characters. It also expands their story to include awesome supporting actors and performers, so the full weight of the movie doesn’t hinge entirely on the premise of a five minute comedy sketch. The only other SNL movie to succeed at this is Wayne’s World, a modern classic that seems soooo far away a the moment. *sigh*

The Blues Brothers is funny, but the highlights are the random musical performances and musician cameos. James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Chaka Khan all make appearances and the result is awesome. It must have been amazing to work with talent of this calibre, and surprisingly, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd aren’t too shabby either. This is a movie that is inseparable from its soundtrack, which are often the best kind of movies.

The only downside to this movie is knowing John Belushi’s fate in real life. It’s strange watching Blues Brothers knowing that two short years later he would be dead. He was such a bright star, it’s a shame he let the excesses of stardom get the better of him.

Rating: B+

The first thing I have to say about The Blues Brothers is how awesome the soundtrack is. Nearly every song in this comedy based on a Saturday Night Live sketch is catchy. I was singing along constantly to such classics like “Shake Your Tail Feather” and the “Theme from Rawhide.”

Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) are two brothers on a ‘mission from God’. Jake has just been released from jail and visits the orphanage he and Elwood grew up in, only to discover they’re about to be closed down unless they can get $5000. Jake and Elwood decide to get their band back together and raise the money for their childhood home. Since the orphanage is run by nuns, they consider themselves to be on a mission from God, destined for success.

This film has some of the best singers of all time on hand to perform. Great artists like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown all appear and light up the screen with their vocal stylings. I particularly love Ray Charles and his rendition of “Shake Your Tail Feather.” I expect greatness from professional singers though, the biggest surprise of the movie is Belushi and Aykroyd. They’re singing ability is great and they have fantastic chemistry together.

This is one of the few successful films that was based on a Saturday Night Live skit. For every Blues Brothers or Wayne’s World there are two Superstars or Stuart Saves His Familys.

It’s somewhat sad watching this film, knowing Belushi’s fate (for those who don’t know, he died of a drug overdose shortly after this came out). He was such a good showman and had a really amazing screen presence. His story is similar as many successful comedians, such as Chris Farley or Phil Hartman, who’ve had an early death. Seeing this film now reminds you that we need to enjoy these comedians performances while we can.

Rating: B

3 thoughts on “The Blues Brothers (1980)

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