The Blues Brothers
Directed by John Landis
Starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd
Also featuring James Brown, Cab Colloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Carrie Fisher, John Candy
Review by Jordan
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
The Blues Brothers, the second title in John Landis’ classic period, sandwiched between Animal House (1978) and An American Werewolf in London (1981), is successfully many things. It’s a comedy, a musical and enthusiastically in its best moments a chase film, while also creating a legacy akin to Spinal Tap and clearly defining itself as an iconic cult title oozing silliness and energy before the completion of each of its contagiously fun sketches.
Jake Blues (Belushi) has just been released from prison after serving 3 years for a failed holdup attempt, and after a promised visit to see “The Penguin,” together with his Blues brother Elwood (Aykroyd) they set out to redeem themselves of their rapscallion ways by raising the $5,000 needed to stop the selling of the boarding school they grew up in to the Education Board. Unfortunately, this can’t be dirty money, which ignites the decision to get the old band back together… not so easy when each member is owned money and wants nothing to do with them.
Their “Mission from God” is threatened not only by uncooperative musicians, but also the police (led by John Candy in one of many memorable cameos), Neo Nazis seeking revenge for their interrupted rally, a scorned ex-girlfriend with an arsenal to rival a military arms base (Carrie Fisher) and a “Back in 5 Minutes” sign. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it sure is easy listening to the groove of the trombone, sax and bass guitar when the tunes ignite and the greats strut their stuff.
A comedy of excesses and deliriously fun musical interludes, Landis and Aykroyd threw caution and sensibility out of the dingy apartment window when creating two characters whose repulsiveness is their most endearing quality, rivalled only by their band’s toe-tapping blues (and country and western) ability. There is always an endearing quality in lowlife, self-serving characters who can back their way out of every situation, normally at the expense of others, that perhaps stems from our desire to see the underdog succeed against exaggerated odds, and things don’t come much more exaggerated than in The Blues Brothers, where one cartoonish car chase isn’t enough and John Belushi can perform backflips.