The Blues Brothers (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A mission from God.

Jake (John Belushi) is released from jail and joins his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) in starting up their old band so as to raise money for their old orphanage. Trying to get the members back proves harder than they thought, but because they are ‘on a mission from God’ nothing deters them including having every police agency in the state (and various other riff-raff) on their tail.

If you take away the songs and the extended car chases you have only 20 minutes of actual comedy and even then it is not real hilarious just amusing. Sometimes it gets downright silly like an old Disney movie with no edginess or satire. There isn’t even the expected crudeness or sophmorics and having this thing rated ‘R’ is ridiculous.

For such a simple comedy it is well staged almost like a grand scale spectacle. The stunts are spectacular and at certain times breathtaking. Director John Landis seems to have shut down the whole city of Chicago to do it and it definitely set a new standard for car chases.

Some of it makes you grab the edge of your seat especially when you see in fast motion, from their viewpoint, careening down the street as they dodge cars and pedestrians that seem to pop up at you. It also helps the validity to have them run into some road construction because in Chicago that’s pretty much all you see. I lived there for 18 years and the saying they have is that there are two seasons ‘winter and road construction’. Yet it would have been nice to see them wearing their seatbelts! Anyone else would have been killed or injured with any number of things they do and this thought takes away from some of the fun. It also would have helped the plausibility to have a couple of the bullets shot at them at least hit the car. There is a scene where over a hundred different policemen shoot at the car and not even one hits it!

The songs are great and it’s more of a musical anyways. There is a nice emphasis on the blues that bring out a distinct Chicago flavor. Cab Calloway is terrific doing his famous rendition of ‘Minnie the Moocher’ while the Blues Band plays along dressed like a 1920’s swing band. The numbers done by the Blues Brothers themselves is the most rousing as they guys can really sing! Their rendition of ‘Rawhide’ is hilarious.

Kathleen Freeman has probably the funniest part in a nifty send up of those Catholic school nuns that loved to use a ruler as a disciplinary tool. Carrie Fisher is engaging as a jilted bride out for revenge as she always did have a very ‘Don’t mess with me’ look in her eyes even when she was doing Star Wars. Henry Gibson shows his usual sinister style as the head of the local Nazi party and yet it is Aykroyd who is the real star as he is at his deadpan best throughout.

Look quickly for Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Ruebens as a French waiter. Also the DVD version has 18 minutes of extra footage.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released; June 20, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 13Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Landis

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

2 responses to “The Blues Brothers (1980)

  1. I’ve always called “The Blues Brothers” an “urban epic.” It’s one of my favorite movies of the 80’s and, I think, director John Landis’ finest moment. There are lots of things to look for other than Pee-wee Herman. Landis often makes references in his film to Muppet puppeteer Frank Oz. He appears as a prison guard at the beginning of the film, plus…right before the car crashes into the toy store, a customer holds a Grover doll while asking “Do you have the Miss Piggy?” an Animal doll also appears in the background. All 3 of these are characters Oz performed. Landis is the king of hidden jokes in his movies.

    • You are right. Landis does a lot of hidden jokes in his films. Sometimes too much of it because it can take the viewer out of the story, but here that sort of stuff works perfectly. Your reference to Frank Oz in the film is a good one and he has had some success as a filmmaker as well. Apparently he and Marlon Brando did not get along in the 2001 film ‘The Score’. Brando would call Oz ‘Fozzy and ‘Miss Piggy’ and the antagonism got so bad that Robert De Niro had to direct Brando in the scenes he was in because Oz didn’t want to deal with him.

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