Mini-Review Monday: The Blues Brothers

The Blues BrothersRelease: June 20, 1980

Story: Jake Blues (John Belushi) has just been let out of Joliet prison. He starts living again with his blood brother, Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd), the two having grown up in a Chicago catholic orphanage. The two discover the orphanage will soon close if it can’t procure $5,000 to pay its property taxes. They decide to get their old R&B band back together, do gigs, and eventually throw an awesome concert in order to raise the funds to keep the orphanage open. All they have is their wits, a beat-up Mount Prospect police car called the Bluesmobile, and the power of the blues. Though the two are causing havoc wherever they go, they’re on a mission from God and no one can get in their way, not the Cook County police force (led by the late, great John Candy), a band of Illinois Nazis, an angry bar owner, an annoyed country band, or a mysterious woman (Carrie Fisher) who is determined to kill the brothers with bazookas, machine guns, and explosives powerful enough to bring entire buildings down on the heads of our heroes.

Thoughts: The Blues Brothers was the premiere SNL movie (a film based off a SNL sketch and/or character). It was the victim of many production problems and, while doing well when it came out, has seen greater success over the past 35 years with airings on television and VHS and DVD sales. Forever-after SNL pictures would be compared to this emblem of 80s comedy directed and co-written by famed director John Landis (director of National Lampoon’s Animal House, Trading Places, Spies Like Us, ¡Three Amigos!, Coming to America, and Beverly Hills Cops III; co-writer of Clue; and writer and directer of An American Werewolf in London). The Blues Brothers is funny; perfectly paced; has fantastic music; features cameos from some of the greatest R&B, blues, and soul musicians alive at the time (James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker); and is a tribute to the beautiful city of Chicago. Jake and Elwood are eccentric and simple (what you see is what you get) but always lovable (it helps that they attempt to run over Nazis). Unlike most SNL films, Landis, Aykroyd, and Belushi expand on the characters. They give Jake and Elwood the appropriate amount of back story and personality, they keep things fresh by continuously putting the two in new and funny situations, and they don’t rely on one joke or characteristic to carry the entire flick. The movie just works. Plain and simple. I’ve only seen it a couple times, but it’s already a favorite. It’s the type of movie I would watch on a weekend night and revel in its light nostalgic comedy, music, and characters that are all pure fun. You want to know why this film set a high standard for every SNL film to come, give it a watch and you’ll immediately find out.

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