Retro Movie Review: The Blues Brothers

Ever wanted to see a movie about a down-on-their-luck musical group that engages in crazy exploits? Though most of you might immediately think of the recent “Pitch Perfect 2,” thirty-five years ago, a film with a similar description and yet drastically different plot was released. Also produced by Universal Pictures, it was none other than the comedy masterpiece The Blues Brothers.

Based on the “Saturday Night Live” skit and rhythm-and-blues band of the same name, the movie follows the endeavors of Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd, “Ghostbusters”) and Jake Blues (John Belushi, “Animal House”), two brothers who’ve fallen to the other side of the law. After learning that the orphanage where they grew up is about to be closed due to a lack of funds, the pair decide to get their old blues band back together to raise the necessary money. Along the way, they must avoid the Chicago Police Force, rival bands, Neo-Nazis, and Jake’s vengeful ex-wife (Carrie Fisher, “Star Wars”), all of whom are out to get the brothers for various reasons. A misadventure of roaring slapstick, epic car chases, and memorable musical numbers ensues.

Filmed on-location in Chicago, Illinois, the film is perhaps best known for its over-the-top destruction of buildings, cars, and just about anything in between, which, having been made before the advent of modern CGI, was all done via practical stunts and effects. In fact, the unforgettable police chase through the shopping mall scene was done with the vehicles actually being driven through a real, albeit abandoned, mall in the suburb of Harvey.

In addition to its lovable and hilarious main cast, the movie also boasts an impressive collection of cameos from special guest stars, including John Candy, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Paul Reubens, Frank Oz, and Steven Spielberg. Also, notable musicians Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Lou Marini lend their talents to the songs and music in the film.

Though initially over-budget, the film was a hit when it came out in 1980, and was ultimately ranked 10th for the entire year. Following in the film’s wake, The Blues Brothers Band went on to record several albums, as well as come together for a world tour in 1988. The movie’s initial popularity even lead the eventual release of a less-successful sequel, “Blues Brothers 2000,” in 1998.

Despite its age, “The Blues Brothers” holds up as a timeless and outstanding piece of filmmaking. Its side-splitting humor, terrific action sequences, and impressive assortment of music make for a one-of-a-kind viewing experience you won’t soon forget.

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