The Blues Brothers (1980)
Directed by John Landis
Written by Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Carrie Fisher, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin
After getting out of the joint, “Joliet” Jake Blues (Belushi) joins his brother Elwood (Aykroyd) on a mission from God. Now they’re getting the band back together and trying to stay one step ahead of the law.
This cult classic was released in 1980. The story was written by Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters) and John Landis (¡Three Amigos!), with Landis also directing the film. The movie stars John Belushi (Animal House) and Dan Aykroyd as the title characters. They’re joined by a long list of musicians and actors including John Candy (Home Alone), Carrie Fisher (Hannah and Her Sisters), James Brown (Rocky IV), Cab Calloway (Stormy Weather), Ray Charles (Limit Up), and Aretha Franklin (Blues Brothers 2000).
This story is the basis for one of the great road movies of all time. The presentation of the characters happens on a gritty and seedy version of Chicago. Fortunately, the characters themselves are far more colorful. The mix of musical moments range from pure Hollywood musical presentation to far more realistic presentation. The action, on the other hand, is anything but realistic. Landis and Aykroyd understood that this level of insanity required a full commitment.
The ensuing car chases feel like leftovers from The French Connection while the people involved feel like they fell out of a Mel Brooks film. The dialogue is wonderfully done and allows the over-the-top nature of the story to shine. Even if this story has a ton of holes it works thanks to the commitment to going all the way with the premise. If this doesn’t work for you, it’s still got some of the greatest musical performances ever seen in a film. (I don’t include concert films in this statement.)
The acting in this movie is so great. Belushi leads the way, creating a timeless character much like his other film roles. He has a natural feel for the role and uses the comfort level to make the story work. He also has good chemistry with co-star Dan Aykroyd. Like Belushi, Aykroyd feels like he has a natural comfort within his role. The two of them play well off of one another, and also find nice connections with the rest of the cast. They also do good work with the musical demands of their roles.
These two are joined by a long list of talented people who bring this one to life. The work from Candy and Fisher fits right in with the tone of the story. This is true of the rest of the cast as well. The musical performances are some of the greatest you’ll see in a musical. Seeing Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Cab Calloway play their classic songs is worth watching this one for. They also hold their own in the acting department. The acting won’t disappoint you in this one.
This movie has everything. Nazis, musical legends, dozens of crashes, explosions, and more. The visual aspects of this film did everything necessary to keep up with the over-the-top nature of the story. At one time this film held the record for the most cars destroyed in one film. (The record is now held by the sequel to this film.) If you’re looking for some loony action sequences, this is one for you. Overall, this looks great even after 35 years.
Releasing a film the same week as Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back might have been disastrous for Universal Pictures. Instead they found box office success and a modest amount of critical praise. (This was accomplished despite the fact that several theater chains refused to show the film.)
The film has gained cult status since the release, and is one of the most popular movies of its genre. If you’re a fan of movies like Wayne’s World, this is one worth checking out. I would also suggest this one to fans of any of the musicians featured in the film. Unfortunately, the R rating of this one prevents it from being a family film. Otherwise it’s a wild romp that finds every reason to be fun and crazy. I give this one 4.4 out of 5 stars.