Four fried chickens and a coke… and some dry white toast, please
Birthed from a Saturday Night Live skit created by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, The Blues Brothers’ use of musical legends, classic tunes, and exceptional comedic talent ensures the movie is still considered a timeless classic thirty years after its release.
We’re first introduced to the eponymous brothers as the eldest brother, Jake, is released from prison for an unspecified crime. The first character we meet is the prison warden played by the legendary Frank Oz. These first five minutes set the tone of the movie as firmly tongue-in-cheek, backed up by an iconic scene with “The Penguin”, the owner of the orphanage that Jake and his younger brother Elwood grew up in.
The brothers find out the orphanage is in danger of being foreclosed on by the bank and decide to try and save their childhood home. During a sermon delivered by James Brown, Jake comes up with the idea to save the orphanage; reform their band, The Blues Brothers.
The first third of the movie covers the various ways the brothers coerce, sweet talk, and force their former bandmates back into the band with a memorable scene of the brothers crashing an extravagant dining establishment that their former band member works at. Once the band is back together, we follow the band through their first couple of gigs back and this culminates in a massive concert performance where the brothers have to make a cross country all nightery road trip in order to save their orphanage.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are the stars of the show as the two brothers, meshing together well with both actors getting to flex their comedic acting chops. However, they are almost eclipsed throughout the movie by the diverse and colourful supporting cast. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Frank Oz, James Brown, and more steal the spotlight scene after scene thanks to John Landis’s excellent script. The only slightly flat characters are the rest of the members in the band. They aren’t given any real screen time of their own to grow and as a result, just end up lumped together in my mind as “the rest of the band”.
With a supporting cast mainly made up of music legends, you had better believe the movie puts this talent to good use. Almost every scene has a memorable musical performance ensuring you’ll be humming the tunes for the next week. Belushi and Aykroyd handle themselves well in this department, although they pale a little in comparison to the more well-known performers.
The standout for me in this film has to be the stunts. Car chases through shopping centres, across the country and through the streets of Chicago. The crew on this film had multiple versions of the brother’s car with each one tweaked for a specific purpose and this attention to detail can definitely be appreciated. They even had one version of the car that was built specifically to fall apart after the climactic chase through Chicago’s streets. This chase is my favourite part of the film, with the stunt driving feeling exhilarating every single time I watch the film. The level of destruction is astounding, with 103 retired police vehicles being wrecked during the final car chase, a record that stood for years before it was beaten by the critically panned sequel Blues Brothers 2000.
Incredible music, stuntwork, and comedic work by Belushi and Aykroyd make The Blues Brothers a film hybrid of action, comedy, and musical that has no right to work… and yet somehow it does. Definitely worth a watch. Make sure to check it out.
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