Unbelievably, one of my favorite childhood films turned 40 this year. I grew up watching The Blues Brothers and it’s remained one of my favorite comfort movies to watch (the kind that I’ve seen so many times I can quote most of it). Not too long ago I rewatched the film for the first time in a long time and I thought I’d put down my thoughts on it.
The Blues Brothers is based on the comedy duo and titular band created by Dan Akroyd and the late John Belushi. They originally debuted their act on Saturday Night Live (yes, really) in 1976 before creating a rhythm and blues band (that you see in the film) that became so legitimately popular that the idea was spawned to create a movie about them.
The entire plot of the film borders on the ridiculous, but as it’s played completely straight it works! Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Jake (who’s just gotten out of prison) and Elwood Blues find themselves tasked by the Penguin (the nun who runs the orphanage they grew up in) to find $5000 to help bail out the orphanage or it will be closed down. Jake is inspired by a wild church service (led by James Brown) to get their old band back together and raise the money with a few concerts. Things quickly go sideways (Nazis, crazy ex-girlfriends, LOTS of cops), but as Elwood says “They’ll never catch us, we’re on a mission from God.”
I’m glossing over some details but the entire story is comedy gold as most of the film is one long, extended chase with musical interludes. The chase starts early on when Elwood gets nabbed for allegedly running a red light, and doesn’t fully stop until the final scene of the movie. And as the chase continues it gets bigger, and bigger, and funnier. By the end of the film, the Blues Brothers are being chased by (in no particular order): over a hundred cops, the Army, Nazis, a SWAT team, and a tank! It’s wild watching all of these forces gather to hunt down two guys who are legitimately trying to do the right thing for an orphanage but the way the film builds it up it just feels like the natural climax to everything that’s happened.
Yes, it’s true, there really are Nazis in this film by the way but don’t worry, they’re all portrayed as buffoons that no one likes. They all receive their comeuppance in glorious fashion (but not before they get their own chase segment with “Ride of the Valkyries” playing in the background, a sequence that never fails to get a laugh out of me).
And of course, I have to mention the great music that fills this movie. Every number is iconic and features so many musical greats: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, just to name a few. Each song is so much fun to listen to (I love watching Aretha Franklin sing “Respect”), and very memorable. Of all the musical segments in this film, my absolute favorite is Cab Calloway’s rendition of “Minnie the Moocher.” It feels like a throwback to an earlier era of movies, which I think might be the point of the segment, but still, I love it. Of course, this film is also a reminder that most of these musical legends aren’t with us anymore (but that’s to be expected with a 40 year old film).
Also, I have to mention that I love that Carrie Fisher is in this movie. Growing up, it used to be the weirdest experience for me to see her in this film (because all I knew her from was Star Wars), so the first few times I saw her, I would always think “Why is Princess Leia in this film?” The way the film waits until late in the story to explain who she is and WHY she’s doing what she’s doing is just hysterically funny to me, because her actions feel like the most random of all until you get that explanation.
What I’m trying to say is that The Blues Brothers is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and remains so 40 years after it first came out. You definitely need to see this film if you haven’t already.
Let me know what you think about The Blues Brothers in the comments below and have a great day!
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