The Blues Brothers is one of the best comedy films ever made. Directed by John Landis and starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi this is the tale of Jake and Elwood Blues as they are dispatched on a "mission from God" to raise $5000 to save their old orphanage from demolition.
The stylish opening to this film sees Joliet Jake released from prison after a three year stretch to meet his brother Elwood. Upon visiting their old orphanage the frightening Sister Mary Stigmata demands that they raise the cash needed to save the institution in which they both grew up. The brothers decide to raise the cash by getting their old band together and throwing a huge benefit gig.
This film features some of the best Blues artists ever in several huge musical numbers and combines them with some crazy chase scenes and excellent slapstick comedy. Landis and Aykroyd scripted the film with some great gags and slick one-liners. Many of the set pieces are simply amazing, such as the brothers driving through a shopping mall to escape the police and smashing absolutely everything along the way. They wreck an incredible number of cars in this film, in fact they set a record.
The brothers soon run into trouble, many of the band members take serious persuading before they'll sign up, the police are after them and to make matters worse one of Jake's ex-girlfriends is determined to kill him. Along the way they also manage to enrage a redneck band and a large group of neo-Nazi's.
Amazingly this film could be described as a musical and yet I love it. It does have some of those classic musical scenes where the people on the street start to dance and sing along but perhaps because it is always kept funny or perhaps because the music is so good this never becomes annoying. The artists who make an appearance here are the cream of the blues crop including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and a host of others.
The acting is very good. This has to be my favourite Dan Aykroyd performance ever as the dimwitted deadpan Elwood. John Belushi is on superb form as Jake, a one man riot. Carrie Fisher pops up as the insane ex-girlfriend and there are several other good character actors like Kathleen Freeman, who plays the scary nun.
The Blues Brothers themselves are just great characters. Constantly dressed in black suits, white shirts, black ties, black hats and of course shades. They drive around in the Bluesmobile, a battered and converted police car with a serious kick. Elwood lives in the scabbiest one room apartment ever, cooking toast on the hob of his oven as trains fly past with a deafening sound almost shaking his room to the ground every few minutes.
The direction from Landis is extremely good and very memorable. Elements of this film can be seen in many subsequent works as Landis has a great talent for using unique and inspired camera angles and clever shots. Even in a musical comedy like this the action is very exciting and beautifully filmed.
After a huge musical show at the Palace Hotel Ballroom which sees Jake and Elwood take the stage the action builds towards what has to be the biggest chase scenes ever captured on film as the brothers race to deliver the money before the deadline is reached with literally hundreds of people in tow. This is a truly great ending to the movie.
Fabulous music, funny and stylish dialogue, some classic slapstick and some breathtaking car chases make this an essential film to watch over and over again.
"It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. It's dark and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it!"