When Jake Blues is released from prison, he and his brother Elwood are set on a mission from God, to save the orphanage they grew up in without tainting any of the money through illicit means.
Time for another film I figured wasn’t going to be that good but felt like I had to watch because everyone says it is amazing. I was expecting to not like it since a lot of comedy from that era just doesn’t land with me. I wasn’t a fan of “Stripes!” “M*A*S*H,” or “Caddyshack” when I finally saw them and those are all highly regarded comedy classics.
On the other hand, I have never seen a John Belushi (“Animal House,” 1978)movie and everyone says he is the reason to watch the film. Add to that the passing of Carrie Fisher who also is in the film and I felt like it was time to risk stirring the ire of my inner hipster and check out “The Blues Brothers.”
So, I’m a fool.
Why did I take so long to watch this movie?
“The Blues Brothers,” is a delight, front to back and I don’t just mean the sense of humor. The filmmaking is excellent. It’s not “Citizen Kane” but throughout the film I found myself drawn into the production design, camera angles, and stunts.
In fact, the moment I knew I would love this film is just one such moment. The film opens with one of the titular Brothers being released from prison. The huge doors open and a brilliant glowing light shines out from behind him symbolizing a rebirth or birth with the promise of his freedom. Of course today this would be a After Effects plug in that some one applied to a YouTube video but before Visual Effects this had to be done practically as a Special Effect. The work that goes into something like this, as well as the preparation to be ready at a certain time of day to catch the right quality of light in the right setting is fantastic. Seeing it made me realize that I was in safe hands. The makers of this movie were willing to work to make the film stand out.
There are a thousand instances of this but the film does something else really smart that make it stick out in one’s brain. They set things in relatable places.
It makes everything seem more relatable and impressive. When it’s time for a car chase, they don’t go flying in and out of traffic and blowing red lights. Most of us never do that and don’t relate to it. Instead, The Brothers are chased through a packed parking lot and then into a mall (a scene parodied countless times.)
Now why is it that these scenes are famous? Because we have all been in a mall (though hopefully not driving) and zipping a round a mall parking lot is something we’ve all done. When the tires are squealing and we see a nice wide of a car turning up and down those asphalt aisles at too breakneck a speed we all know that WE would have hit those other cars. It highlights not only the skill of the drivers who put in the work to be able to reliably do this on camera, but also, the mystical nature of the mission they are on and the protection that God has placed around them.
I hear people talk sometimes about the tragedy of Belushi’s short career (I listen to a lot of comedy podcasts) and although it comes up less often than it used to, I always just assumed it was tragic in the way that any young death is tragic. I just didn’t realize how brilliant Belushi was till I saw him perform. I won’t get into it too much though because I believe you need to see his performances to understand.
The energy of John Belushi is undeniable. His ability to take characters who should be unlikable and make them lovable and fun is tremendous. His understanding of comic timing is profound to the extent that it is extremely rare for a joke not to land. If you haven’t seen him work you just won’t understand and if you have seen his work, you do.
It’s that simple. You gotta see it.
Speaking of brilliant performances, the music in this film is top notch. The best performers just doing what they do so well. Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and I’m sure a bunch more that I don’t recognize or know pepper this film with music and fun in a way that I just wasn’t expecting. I mean, I knew there would be music. It is called “The Blues Brothers” but I wasn’t expecting a film with so much music and of such a quality that it could be called a Musical, but it is. Just not the kind of musical we are accustomed to.
I could write all day about this film but I do believe that this one people should just watch. It’s one of the highest compliments I can give a film that I only want to watch it and not talk too much about it. I feel like my words can’t come close to describing what was a truly wonderful film.
PS- Writing this review made me want to watch it again so much that I did, lol.
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