The Blues Brothers (1980): A Celebration of Blues and Satire of Music and Crime Films

The Blues Brothers

   Comedy is an interesting thing. There are sketches, stand-up, satire, slapstick and more and most films tend to take a combination of these minus stand-up. “The Blues Brothers” is a cult classic inspired by the SNL “Blues Brothers” sketch and you can tell it was once a sketch show. There isn’t enough characterization or characters here to really make it a great film for me, as comedy needs purpose and this one the purpose is mostly the music and not the characters as shown by which part of the film is truly great.

     The film was directed by John Landis who also co-wrote the film with Dan Aykroyd and was produced by Robert W. Weiss.

     The story involves the Blues Brothers, Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) bringing back their blues band after they have a religious experience that has inspired them to save the orphanage they grew up in. In order to do get there they will face Nazi, the band and the Police to try and succeed in their “Mission from God.”

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is really amazing. we get intimate shots of the brothers as well as some beautifully filmed action sequences along with some good use of comedic timing through how different shots are done. Stephen M. Katz did a great job.

The Action – The action sequences are a lot of fun and very much over the top. You have police and army men raiding buildings to get the Blues Brothers and huge police car pile ups that show just how insane the situations have become. Not to mention some well done car chases.

The Soundtrack and Stars – The soundtrack is beautiful and Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and the other stars of Blues and Soul do a fantastic job! As do Aykroyd and Belushi. Franklin and Charles had some of my favorite songs in the film.

The Blues Brothers – Belushi and Aykroyd have a great dynamic and the Brother’s relationship is the one thing that feels real. Jake is the one who gets into trouble and goes all out while Elwood is the simple guy who is always there and just wants to do the right thing. This leads to their belief on being from a mission from God as their belief in one another sustains them through the trials.

Okay: The Plot – The plot is simple, it’s the Blues Brothers getting the band back together to save the orphanage they were raised in. Sad thing is we learn nothing about their relationship to the band members except that they owe them a lot of money. We don’t get any history or anything and it brings down the plot.

The Cons: The Supporting Characters – Whether it is Carrie Fisher as a jilted lover of Jake, John Candy as the head cop tracking them or any of the other cameos…they are just there and don’t really serve a purpose beyond being a recognizable face. They don’t change our characters in any way and aren’t changed by them either.

Cameos – I loved the music but having big name stars appear just to sing songs does not make a good or memorable story. That makes me think more of a variety show or even “Sesame Street” not a big budget comedy or satire.

   I get why this is a cult classic and it is a film I’d recommend even though it isn’t a favorite and I wouldn’t call it great. The music in it is great and Belushi and Aykroyd are great…but they can’t carry the script Aykroyd helped write as he depended way too much on the comedic elements rather than letting character create drama and let the circumstances of story set up the comedy. These aspects and the fact that it is one giant cameo takes away from scenes that could have built the plot up or used the guest stars to better enrich the plot. It still feels like a giant sketch that is trying to be a film and not a film fully.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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