The Blues Brothers

God, I love the Blues Brothers. Everything about it stirs me, moves me in ways few other films have ever done.  For me, this is the quintessential classic, this is the movie I would like to be buried with, this is the movie that I would like to have if I were stranded on a desert island.  Everything about this movie is amazing: the camerawork pulls you through the adventure, the script is hilarious, the photography drops the story into a gritty but loved bastion of the blues, the acting is spot on, and the music…oh, the music…

First of all, let us take a moment to discuss the structure of the story. The entire plot of the film is built into a time-tested classical structure that has been used since the days of the Babylonians (see The Epic of Gilgamesh), later by Homer, and again and again to the present day. We follow our two heroes, Jake and Elwood, the former on his first day out of the Cook County slammer after doing time trying to bail out his band mates, on a mission (“from God”) to LEGALLY raise the money to save the downtown home where they were raised.

What follows is a slam-bang race for the golden-fleece, with Jake (John Belushi) and (Dan Aykroyd) reassembling their band, and all-star who’s who of bluesmen, avoiding the Chicago Police, led by Burton Mercer (our late friend John Candy), a band of Neo-Nazi scum, some redneck country-players, and Jake’s psychotic ex-fiancée turned wannabe assassin (Carrie Fisher). Along the way, we hang with R&B legends John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, the show-stopping James Brown, and many more. And let’s not forget subtle cameos by such well-knowns as Paul Reubens (gehhh…), Frank Oz, Twiggy, Steven Spielberg, and yes, many more.

We pound through musical numbers without the film turning into a Broadway fag-fest, and the soundtrack never lets us down, and is still the highest-selling, most popular blues album to date. One-liners abound, running jokes never slow down, and the car chases in the film broke numerous world records. The scale of the film is epic, and rightly so. The story is a battle-cry that rallies a great form of music out of the dredge and sludge of the pop plague of the 80’s that still plagues music today.

Ultimately, the story is all about love. Jake and Elwood look out for each other, and take care of each other in ways that few brothers actually would. They aren’t shooting for the spotlights this time around, they are trying to save the only home they ever knew, and at the same time, trying to make sure their band mates get paid before they do.
Likewise, the film is a tribute. Dan Aykroyd had originally written a script that weighed in at over 640 pages, with side stories for each of the band members, and elaborately detailed scenes. The film is a love letter to Chicago, with all of its grit and gristle, with its good and the bad. The film is a tip of the fedora to a musical nerve center, and a pledge to a sweet home.

Most of the comedies I’ve seen (that are actually funny) make me laugh the first time, the second time, sometimes the third. But after that, I just enjoy them, or get tired of them. When I watch the Blues Brothers, I laugh every time. When I think about watching it, I get as excited as the day I first saw it out on DVD, and clear my schedule for some time to watch and enjoy.

In short, a classic, and as most true classics are, an underrated masterpiece.

2 thoughts on “The Blues Brothers”

  1. Great review, hopefully it leads others who haven’t seen the movie to watch it. This was a great, fun movie, and I have to admit I know lots who loved it!

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