Favorite Movies A-Z: The Blues Brothers

Release Date: 1980
Rating: R
Length: 133 minutes
Director: John Landis
Starring: John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Cab Calloway
Language: English
Country: USA

The Blues Brothers really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Probably shouldn’t work at all. Who knows, maybe it doesn’t any longer. I might be part of the last generation for whom explanations of the cameos are not necessary. Though a lot of my familiarity with the musicians who pass through is probably due to my dad having eclectic tastes in music and sharing them with his kids.

The number of jazz and blues luminaries who appear in this film is impressive, but even better than a simple set of cameos is the playful and engaged tone they lend. Overall the feel is like that of Ocean’s Eleven; everyone seems to be having a great time making an enjoyable film without too many pretensions. We all know that it’s ridiculous, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun nevertheless. Sure, sure, the plot is trite and hackneyed (only X days to raise Y dollars so we can save the Ζ!), but so what? This is still where the phrase “we’re getting the band back together” originated.

There are more running gags than you can shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time), a lengthy and comic (rather than very tense) car chase, Illinois Nazis (look ’em up, kids), a cameo by Steven Spielberg, an appearance by Frank Oz (yes, the voice of Fozzie Bear and Yoda) and lots of great music.

This is the first of the Saturday Night Live movies. Perhaps, unfortunately for the movie-going public, this is also the most successful and best of the Saturday Night Live movies. Sure, the slightly inferior Wayne’s World was made possible by this, but let’s not pretend it hasn’t just been downhill from there ever since. Anyway, if you like slightly nonsensical comedy and good blues, this is the movie for you.

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