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"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses." Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi raise hell across America in John Landis' musical
It's a heckuva mess, The Blues Brothers. From the sci-fi tinged opening (which influenced Blade Runner' early scenes) to the carnage-heavy conclusion, John Landis' picture changes pace and direction like a liquored-up learner driver. Musical, comedy, road movie - it's anyone guess what it's meant to be. The one thing that's undeniable is that The Blues Brothers is a lotta fun.
The movie that launched a handful of so-so covers albums, The Blues Brothers has its origins in 'Saturday Night Live', upon which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi liked nothing better than to slap on the shades and belt out workman-like versions of 'Soul Man'. The film opens up this idea. Indeed, Aykroyd's original screenplay ran to almost 400 pages, many of which comprised lengthy descriptions of Jake and Elwood's beloved steed, the Bluesmobile. As for the finished film, it sees Aykroyd's Elwood and Belushi's Jake putting their band back together in the hope of saving their childhood home. Oh yes, and there's also some stuff about Illinois Nazis and a crazed C&W outfit lead by the impressively bechinned Charles Napier.
With a coherent plot proving of little importance to Aykroyd and director/co-writer Landis, the emphasis here is upon cracking tunes and star turns. So we get Aretha Franklin belting out 'Think', Ray Charles showing us how to 'Shake A Tailfeather' and Cab Calloway swaggering through 'Mini The Moocher'. The Blues Brothers also features the late, great John Candy, Muppet man Frank Oz and such top musicians as 'Colonel' Steve Cropper - who co-wrote '(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay' with Otis Redding - and 'Mr Fabulous' Alan Rubin. As in the style of a rock concert, each celeb gets a chance to strut their stuff, with the much missed John Candy proving able of elicit laughs with an order for three orange whips.
And then there are the cars. Or rather the car crashes. The Blues Brothers takes carmageddon to a whole new level - Landis uncovering new ways to smash-up autos the way other directors might uncover fresh ways of lighting scenes. Like pretty much everything else in the film, you'll either find this carnage highly entertaining or irritatingly puerile. Odds are, if you like Landis movies such as National Lampoon's Animal House, you'll belong to the former camp.
Oh, and a quick word about the sequel, Blues Brothers 2000. For those with a desire to watch it , we can but paraphrase Richard Herring and Stewart Lee's summary of the film - Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and a small child dance in the open grave of John Belushi while blood-stained dollar bills fall from the sky.
A damn fine mess of a movie.
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