Tuesday, July 13, 2010

“Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail us now.”

I’m just going to say upfront that I unconditionally love 1980’s The Blues Brothers. I think it’s a work of comedic genius that is eternally watchable. BUT, let’s take a little look at why this movie based on an SNL skit works as well as it does.

Well, one Jake Blues is released from Joliet Penitentiary just outside of Chicago on parole and is reunited with his brother, Elwood. Both find out that the orphanage where they were raised is being foreclosed and feel a sense of duty (and good ol’ Catholic Guilt) to raise the money to save the place. Legally being the catch. After a divine revelation, they decide to reform their old band for a charity concert and hilarity and ADVENTURE! skip hand-in-hand through the greater Chicagoland area.

“Joliet” Jake Blues: John Belushi plays the (slightly) more caustic brother (I say slightly because they dress alike, speak alike and have the same expressionless looks on their sunglasses covered faces). Jake is the one who gets the idea to get the band back together.

Elwood Blues: Dan Aykroyd plays the more laid back brother. He’s the driver of the Blues mobile (an old decommissioned cop car). Collectively, the brothers are unquestionably badass.

Curtis: Jazz legend Cab Calloway plays the guy who practically raised Jake & Elwood as kids (and gave them their fashion sense). Performs his classic “Minnie the Moocher.”

The Mysterious Woman: Carrie Fisher plays a young woman who periodically shows up to try and kill the brothers in various ways.

Burton Mercer: John Candy plays Jake’s jovial parole officer who gets caught up in the chase.

Head Nazi: the late Henry Gibson (a comedy vet and one of the main players on “Laugh-In”) plays the leader of a group of Illinois Nazis that swear violent revenge against the Blues Brothers.

The Blues Brothers Band: Okay, deep breath and here we go: Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Murphy “Murph” Dunne, Willie “Too Big” Hall, Tom “Bones” Malone, “Blue Lou” Marini, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin. All of them are real, legitimate musicians and all of them have nicknames.

There’s also a bunch of cameo appearances including Frank Oz, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, Chaka Khan, John Landis, Twiggy, Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens, John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, Steven Spielberg, James “Uncle Phil” Avery, and even Mr. T.

John Landis with cinematography by Stephen M. Katz. It’s all well suited to comedy. Chicago has a generally scruffy look to it in the film, which fit’s the mood, and Landis does a fantastic job keeping the movie flowing at a nice, quick pace even as the movie heaps on random musical numbers, cameos and characters pissed off at the Blues Brothers. And of course car chases. The climax features one of the great cinematic car chases, so that’s a major plus.

Dan Aykroyd and John Landis wrote a script full of quotes and memorable scenes. The plot may not be deep, but it makes up for it in width (if that makes any sense).

No original score, but the film is loaded with a killer blues-centric soundtrack. Take a look at that list of cameos above. Pretty much if any of those names sound like musicians, they were involved in a musical number. As a fan of the blues, the soundtrack is killer.

Yes, the movie is mostly an excuse to showcase car chases and blues music, but it does those things so well and features excellent acting that it transcends that simple premise into absurd comedy gold. I kind of wish the review was more in-depth, but honestly, you have no excuse to not have seen this already. Required viewing.

Yes, I know it's for the DVD. Youtube won't let me embed the theatrical trailer.

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