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The Blues Brothers (1980)

Oct 22, 2000 (Updated Jul 1, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:casting, sight gags, humor, direction

Cons:inconsistent, soundtrack is overrated

The Bottom Line: Along with Animal House, the best opportunity to see John Belushi's talent.

Writer/director John Landis had a major success with his first film under a major studio, Animal House (1978). It only made sense for Landis to follow up with another comedy, which also first billed the talented but reckless comedian John Belushi.

Landis sunk thirty million dollars on The Blues Brothers, most of which apparently went to crashing dozens of police cars and wrecking a Chicago-area shopping mall. While these scenes were undeniably fun to watch, critics at the time complained that the money would have been better spent on a script and story.

It is true that with a running time of over two hours, The Blues Brothers could have used tighter editing. The thin plot mostly provides an excuse for sight gags, star cameos, and band performances. Some of the sillier subplots, such as our heroes being chased by neo-Nazis and a heavily armed Carrie Fisher, could have been removed from the story.

Still, The Blues Brothers is no Cannonball Run. For one thing, the jokes can be riotous. When Belushi asked the easily offended dining customer, "How much for the little girl?", I almost fell out of my chair. The joke may be politically incorrect, but Belushi's timing and fake accent are perfect.

The physical humor works as well, particularly Belushi's somersaults at the church and his nun-induced fall down a flight of stairs. The action takes on a cartoonish quality, particularly when the brothers survive several explosions at the hands of insane, omnipresent Fisher.

It's hard to complain about a soundtrack that includes Cab Calloway performing (what else?) "Minnie the Moocher". The R&B legends also include James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and session men from the heyday of Atlantic Records, Steve Cropper and 'Duck' Dunn. However, it is more fun to watch the Blues Brothers perform on stage than to actually listen to them. Belushi hardly ranks with Howlin' Wolf as a blues singer, while Dan Aykroyd's bass wouldn't get him into The Drifters.

Several notable comedians also have cameo roles. Pee Wee Herman and John Candy show up, as does Muppet impersonator Frank Oz. Oz would reprise his role as a laconic jail clerk in Landis' Trading Places. More useless trivia: both Landis and Belushi were born in Chicago, where the film is set. Steven Spielberg has a cameo as a Cook county clerk. Spielberg had directed Aykroyd and Belushi the year before in one of his rare flops, 1941.

Inconsistent as it is, The Blues Brothers is probably the best film to be spawned from a skit on "Saturday Night Live". (Although It's Pat! and The Coneheads don't provide much competition.) Landis had the lucky touch with both Belushi and Aykroyd, who starred in his two best films (Animal House and Trading Places). John Belushi died of a heroin overdose in 1982. Much of the remaining cast returned for a belated and poorly received sequel, Blues Brothers 2000 (1998). (67/100)

Recommend this product? Yes

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