The Sound of Musicals: The Blues Brothers
Most movies based on Saturday Night Live properties have, traditionally, not been very well received. Movies like It's Pat and Stuart Saves His Family failed so hard that they failed to break $1 million in the United States. This history of failure makes the success of the first effort to feature characters from the show, The Blues Brothers, that much more impressive.
Directed by John Landis, and written by Landis and (award-winning comedian/skull vodka manufacturer) Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers is a redemption story of Jake and Elwood Blues (Aykroyd and the late/great John Belushi) who go on a quest to get their old band back together, play one final show, and raise money to save the orphanage they grew up in. This story may sound cliché, but the execution is anything but that. In fact, the movie often veers off into absurdist territory, as the duo are relentlessly pursued by the police, a heartbroken and blood-thirsty Carrie Fisher, and enough military firepower to topple a small sovereign nation.
What really sets the film apart is its unapologetic love for all things blues, soul, and R&B. Numerous blues and jazz musicians are featured prominently throughout the film, such as Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin. The musical numbers are marvels to behold, especially James Brown's "The Old Landmark" and Aretha Franklin's "Think" These numbers are only made better by Aykroyd and Belushi's deadpan expressions throughout, which they maintain while participating in highly choreographed dance routines. When these musical numbers each kick off, Aykroyd and Belushi typically respond with some surprise and confusion, which is a welcome acknowledgement of the genre's hallmarks.
The Blues Brothers is one of those rare movies that excels in everything it attempts to do. The musical numbers are some of the best the genre has to offer, the script is tight and paced wonderfully, and the performances are strong all around. The Blues Brothers stands tall as a monument of cinema, and is absolutely a film anyone who loves musicals, comedies, or film in general should waste no time in tracking down and spending a night with.