‘The 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.