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The Blues Brothers
1980 - R - 133 Mins.
Director: John Landis
Producer: Robert K. Weiss
Written By: Dan Aykroyd and John Landis
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, John Candy, Carrie Fisher
Review by: John Ulmer
   
There's something funny about the actual Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood. You don't even have to hear them say anything particularly funny to laugh at the sheer sight of the wacky duo lined up against one another, wearing the infamous clothing and sunglasses. And since their appearance on "Saturday Night Live," and then later in their milestone feature film, they have infiltrated society.

"The Blues Brothers" (1980) is, and will remain as far as I see it, the funniest "SNL" skit adaptation to ever hit the big screen. The problem with adapting characters from 5-minute skits on "Saturday Night Live" is the fact that they are just that -- 5-minute skits -- and are not substantial enough to merit any type of further focus. Backdrops are not needed -- all we need are quirky characters with distinguishing traits or gestures that will make us laugh.

"The Ladies Man," "The Coneheads," "A Night At the Roxbury," and "Superstar" are all examples of material stretched too far -- basically just skits multiplied by their original running length some 15 or so times. In fact, there are really only two or three feature length movies with "SNL" characters that are any good.

I love "Saturday Night Live," but even I have to admit that some things are not meant to be turned into a movie. I'd rather see a compilation of the character's best moments on the show hit the big screen as opposed to a weak plot-driven film about them doing many unfunny things a quarter as funny as anything on the television program.

"The Blues Brothers" has a great plot (considering it's an "SNL" film) and a great pair of characters. Jake Blues (John Belushi) has just been released from prison, greeted by his taller (and more slender) brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd). They visit the old Catholic home where they were raised as children by "The Penguin," and are instantly thrust into a mission to save the orphanage by raising a ton of money before it is due to close.

How will they do this? Reunite their old band, of course! But it won't be easy, because in the process they get entangled in the affairs of a Neo-Nazi and a heavily armed woman (cameo by Carrie Fisher). They also get entwined in a bunch of musical sequences with blues legends such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles. (John Candy also stars in this film, and in John Hughes' masterpiece "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," he did the "mess around" to Ray Charles' song on the radio while driving an awful car.)

It's all in the name of fun, of course. Oh, and in the name of God. Quoting Elwood, "We're on a mission from God." Not exactly a laugh-out-loud line of dialogue, but the more you think about it, the funnier it becomes.

All my readers are probably aware of the fact that I absolutely love "Saturday Night Live" and all its actors. (Well, most of them.) Especially the older posse of actors such as Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin (frequent guest host), John Belushi, et al. They're like dear old friends and every time I see them on old reruns of the television show I get instant nostalgia.

When you become a fan of "Saturday Night Live," you enter a sort of small group of friends you've never even met. You just somehow feel very close to the actors and their friends. John Landis, the film's director, was one of those close friends of Dan Aykroyd like Harold Ramis.

The Blues Brothers are two of the best characters to ever come out of "Saturday Night Live." We've seen a lot of characters like Mango and Mary Katharine Gallagher lately, but the best characters are the fondest -- Wayne and Garth, The Lounge Singer, The Coneheads, The Cheeseburger Guy, The Blues Brothers. And just about any character Steve Martin plays.

I can't explain why I enjoy "Saturday Night Live" so much -- is it the humor? the acting? the familiarity feel? -- but I can say that I DO love it, and I love "The Blues Brothers."

Sequels can become nasty things or splendid things, and "The Blues Brothers 2000," which reunited Aykroyd and Landis (the director), was a failure. A compilation of musical sketches and a terribly recycled plot, it was a sure sign that The Blues Brothers themselves worked not only because of Elwood but also because of Jake, and "The Blues Brothers" the movie worked not because of a recycled plot but because of an original one. (And here's advice for the filmmakers: never, ever replace John Belushi with John Goodman ever, ever again.)

I am sure that anyone who enjoyed "Ghostbusters" or any type "SNL"-alumni film will absolutely adore "The Blues Brothers." I mean, this is the stuff legends are made of. Jake and Elwood Blues, two of the most familiar faces of all time. How can you not laugh at this film? It's impossible. Yes, it's a bit long, and yes, you have to sit through some blues music; but they're The Blues Brothers. What else would you expect?
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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