By Neal Sastry (Baltimore, Maryland)
Elwood (repeated line): “We’re on a mission from God.”
Beware: Spoilers may follow
A movie based on an SNL musical sketch is certainly risky to make. What might work as a skit may not translate that well to a 2-hour film. This is something that could have easily backfired. However, with the help of some great music, remarkable performances (in both acting and singing), and some amazing stunts this would become a film masterpiece even having a statue erected of one of the Blues Brothers and the Blues Mobile atop of the famous Hollywood Blvd Theatre in Chicago (seriously if you haven’t been there check it out).
The story revolves around the Blues Brothers Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Akroyd) after Jake is released from prison. They visit their childhood home where they find out from Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman) that unless they can raise $5000 in property taxes the orphanage will be closed. After Jake has an epiphany at a church he figures that they can reform their old band back together to raise the money. Thus our heroes set out to reunite with their old band members who disbanded while Jake was in prison (Steve “the colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Murphy Dunne, Willie “Too Big” Hall, Tom “Bones” Malone, “Blue Lou” Marini, Matt “Guitar: Murphy, and “Mr. Fabulous” Alan Rubin). Along the way they are pursued by the Chicago police, another band called the Good Ol’ Boys, Illinois Nazis, and Jake’s mysterious and nameless vengeful ex-fiancé (Carrie Fisher).
The first of many things that makes this movie truly incredible is the comedy. There are several scenes that truly make this enjoyably funny. I’ll give a list of a few:
– When Elwood and Jake go to visit the nun and she tells them about the closing of the orphanage they are repeatedly beat by her for their constant swearing and invoking the name of Christ in vain resulting in them both falling down a flight of stairs.
– When the mystery woman finally confronts Jake and Elwood who is quite angry for Jake leaving her at the altar. He offers a series of excuses and even takes off his sunglasses (the only time we see his face without them) and it works. He kisses her and then pushes her on the ground simply going along their journey with Elwood.
– The ending when after paying the money and having their receipt stamped and turn around only to see the mob of officers having them at gunpoint. It’s not only every cop, state-trooper, fire-fighter, and national guardsman but also tanks, helicopters, and water patrols who have been chasing these guys.
– Every single car chase scene: The one in the shopping mall, the one with the Illinois Nazis, and especially the one in the climax. The dialogue by Elwood and Jake during them only makes them better.
– While setting out to recruit the rest of the band members they along with the rest of traffic are held up by the Illinois Nazis much to everyone’s chagrin. So what do the Blues Brothers do? They freaking try to run them over causing the Nazis to dive into the water below leading the crowd to cheer and even the police don’t care about it.
The car chases as mentioned before are sheer genius. From the crashes to the maneuvering to the dialogue these are some of the greatest if not the greatest car chase scenes ever put to film with them being chased by the Nazis, the police, and another band.
The music is another element that adds an extra layer of awesome to this film. While some don’t really move the story along they’re still good songs sung by talented people including our leads, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and even James Brown. Some of my favorite songs in this movie include Rawhide, Stand by your Man, Minnie the Moocher, Everybody needs Somebody to love, Jailhouse Rock, Think, and Shake your tail feather. The aforementioned car chases and comedy help fill in the gaps.
Akroyd and Belushi play their role as brothers really well. The connection between them is genuine. One of the examples is when Jake is released from prison in the opening they just share a hug. There is no dialogue in this moment but it helps give the connection. Another scene is when they crash at Elwood’s house he lets Jake sleep in his only bed and gives him the only blanket as well with Elwood only using the chair. The Shake your Tail Feather scene is one those few scenes where you can tell Dan and John as were their characters were having a blast with each other filming. Blues Brothers offers a great deal in terms of comedy, action, music, acting, and excitement that make those statues atop of Hollywood Blvd Theatre mean not only to those who built that place, not only to Chicago, but overall movie-goers as well.
Bits and Quotes:
It’s clear that either Bob, his wife, or one of his employees booked the Good Ol’ Boys so they should have known Jake and Elwood were not the band. Perhaps they booked them through management or it was through an employee who wasn’t working that night? The latter makes more sense given that Bob doesn’t recognize them when they show up. Add that to the fact that for whatever reason the real Good Ol’ Boys showed up after the bar closed up. Where were they that they missed their entire gig? Guess it’s a gift due to the mission from God. Why were the other band members arrested with Jake and Elwood? They didn’t do any of the stuff with them? Were they simply in prison outfits to perform?
Elwood: Illinois Nazis.
Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis.
Elwood: We’re so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight. And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois’s law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time. We certainly hope you all enjoy the show. And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there are still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. Everybody.
Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
Claire: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.
4 out of 4 crazy car chases.