Film No 33 (2014) : The Blues Brothers

blues brothersThe Blues Brothers‘ came out in 1980, the days when pretty much the only way to see new movies was to pay to go to the cinema! I didn’t see it 34 years ago, I’d always had it pegged as a boys’ film. In some way I still think that, especially after basing my judgement on having seen it, rather than watching my 16-year old mates  go in to the Odeon as normal kids, but come out wearing shades and tripping their heels to Sam’n’Dave. I can see the movie might get you like that, in the all-encompassing, dressing up, let’s-go-to-BB-conventions way.

When Jake Blues is released from prison, he and his brother (Elwood) pay a visit to the Catholic orphanage where they were raised. When they learn that the home has to pay a massive tax bill or face closure, the Blues Brothers decide to reform their previous band in order to pay off the debt. It’s a ‘Mission from God’.

Woven into the story of the band are cameo appearances by great blues singers; James Brown is the priest in church, Aretha Franklin a café owner, Ray Charles an instrument-store proprietor. The music is essential to the storyline and to the film, giving rise to ‘flash mob’ dance routines and virtuoso performances.

It can’t be a coincidence that the two central characters, brothers Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Ackroyd) look like Laurel and Hardy, and much of the humour of the film derives from a slapstick-type humour. There are a few witty one-liners, but mostly the laughs are all about the visuals – thrilling car chases ending in massive pile-ups, weird-looking characters and the Blues Brothers own deadpan delivery.

I suspect most people saw this eons ago and many might see it as a lifetime top-ten film, its influence has clearly been enduring. It’s not likely that I will be rushing out to buy dark glasses and a fedora, but if ever the need arises for me to entertain a mob of teenage boys on a wet Saturday afternoon, at least I now have one weapon in my viewing armoury.

 

 

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