Buy me!BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Universal
MSRP: $22.98
RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 133 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Making of documentary
• Introduction of the film by Dan Aykroyd
• A Day on the Blues Brothers tour
• Transporting the music documentary
• Remembering John
• Musical Highlights

Growing up as a kid in Chicago there was only one movie that seemed to define the city –The Blues Brothers. I was only 6 when the Blues Brothers came out, but I knew of its existence. It dominated the conversation of adults and the lucky kids that had gotten to see it during its theatrical release (I was not one of those kids).

I remember when I did finally see the movie. I was still a kid living in Chicago and the movie was on VHS. I remember my sisters and me begging our parents to let us watch it. They did their parental research and discovered it was rated R solely for language. And, as John Landis and Devin chatted during their interview (here) – there isn’t anything in there you wouldn’t let an 8 year old see.

Unless that 8 year old was me.

I remember at one point my dad paused the movie, my sister needed to use the bathroom. During the unscheduled break, my mom asked me to go get her a Coke from the kitchen. My response (in my new lexicon the movie had granted me) was “Fuck you, bitch.”

The only thing I really remember about the next few years of my life is that I loved that f’n movie.

raystealth
Scene from Ray 2: Collateral Ray.

The Flick

Jake and Elwood are icons. Plain and simple. They are giants that are larger than life. What keeps these characters appealing after 25 years? For the most part, people could care less about Noah – so why do we still care about Jake and Elwood’s “mission from God”?

If you don’t know what this film is about… you probably shouldn’t be reading this site. It is the best musical/comedy/car chase movie you’ll ever see. In a nutshell – the brothers try and unite their band to raise money to save an orphanage.

As I watched the movie this time I was trying to figure out what it is about it that makes it work. What I noticed was that the movie plays with size a lot (and I’m not talking about Aretha Franklin’s ass). It is size, and how the movie deals with it, that makes this movie.

Pitt
“It’s a shame John. I knew you wanted to come back as Brad Pitt in the afterlife."

John Landis says something similar on the documentary included with this release. He pinpoints one scene where Jake and Elwood are standing in front of this huge door. I think the issue of size, however, goes far beyond some of the shots that Landis used.

The characters are larger than life and so is everything about the movie. At its center are Jake and Elwood – John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. They are perfect in the roles. Belushi is funny whether silent (like when he takes off the sunglasses to look at Carrie Fisher) or boisterous (doing cartwheels down the church after seeing The Light) and Aykroyd is at his understated best (checking out toaster ovens in the pawn shop before Ray Charles comes out).

They are the coolest cats in room every time, and they know it. Many actors couldn’t pull this over-the-top audacity and sincerity off (after all, even if they do something bad you feel for them – they are on a mission from God). It doesn’t matter if they are ordering lunch (four fried chickens and a coke for Jake and dry, white toast for Elwood), trying to buy children at an upscale restaurant (“How much for your women? The little girl, how much for the little girl?”) or getting on stage for the first time after they’ve united the band. The characters are always larger than life.

steven
Five minutes later, Steven’s sandwich had seen things no sandwich should ever have to see.

It isn’t just the characters that are overblown; everything is amplified in ways that most films don’t exaggerate. It isn’t just the plot that’s exaggerated, but everything about it. However, it is important to note, that no matter how overblown the situations get, the characters are still the heart of it. Landis doesn’t demean his characters for a bigger joke. He creates the big joke and then makes the characters bigger still.

For instance, even by 1980, the car chase had become somewhat clichéd. That’s a problem when the movie you are shooting calls for two colossal car chases.

here
This man is ready. He better be ready to, be ready to jump. Down on Jump Street.

The first chase needed to be “bigger” than anything the audience had ever seen. However, this posed a problem – by the time the 80s had rolled around, audiences had seen car chases for years in every shape and size. The car chase was also a TV plot device then too. How do you make it big enough that people take notice and don’t use the time as a bathroom break?

You stage it inside of a Mall. Instantly memorable and “bigger” than any other car chase the audience had seen. And, it was funnier than hell. (Also, was Landis commentating on the consumer culture that would soon dominate the 80s? Probably not.)

Landis keeps the characters fundamentally involved, however. He doesn’t leave his characters to focus on the mayhem. He doesn’t only show reaction shots of Jake and Elwood (or their stunt doubles through dirty glass). He constantly goes back to the brothers as they banter and chat and destroy the mall.

That presents a new challenge by the end of the movie. Another chase scene is due and you can’t call upon a gimmick two chases in a row. How do you make this one even bigger and maintain the emphasis on the lead duo? You increase the size of the chasers and their relation to the principles.

The brothers aren’t just being chased by a foe. No. They aren’t being chased just by a sole cop. No. They’re being chased by the entire City of Chicago police force. But, that’s not it. They are also being chased by a jilted bride who’s trying to kill them. And a country band from Nashville. And Illinois Nazis.

helen

helen2
In hindsight, Drivers Education Day at the Helen Keller School for the Blind was not the best of ideas.

Now that’s a chase. It seems that, quite literally, everyone is after them because so many people are. Better yet – it makes sense that all these groups are chasing them. The movie’s plot weaves the story together so well that the fact that Illinois Nazis want them dead just seems normal.

Aykroyd and Landis deserve special praise for the script work. In this day and age it is hard to remember that Aykroyd was once a really funny guy. His creation of the script and bringing these characters to life is a lot of fun to watch. Landis gives him special props in the documentary too. To think, that’s the same guy who now stars in dreg like Christmas with the Kranks.

Another thing the script does so well is not become too campy. It is big and slapsticky through and through and it never tries to be anything different. It could easily have teetered out of control into a deranged, over-the-top comedy (ala the Naked Gun). Now, I have nothing against the Naked Gun. I think it is hysterical in its own right. But its style of humor wouldn’t play well with the Blues Brothers.

For instance – in the beginning there is a scene with Frank Oz in the Prison (Oz… prison… this movie was so ahead of its time). Oz is giving Jake back his belongings as Jake is released. Among the items is a used condom. The scene is sold by Oz and his facial expressions – as well as the gag of the used condom. A different movie may have pandered by going too far with the joke. The condom may have still been wet or a “slushy” sound effect could have been added when Oz pulled it out.

Oz
“Hmmm…wrinkly and a bit green…this gives me an idea for a Star Wars character."

However, the two styles are closely related. Had the Blues Brother pushed their jokes a bit more – become outrageously huge – it would have wound up like the Naked Gun. And the result wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

The result also would have damaged the characters the movie builds up so well. Had the jokes become over the top (instead of just the characters) the jokes would have taken center stage. The characters would have been relegated to back up. That would have destroyed the inherent icon-ness of the characters. The movie would have suffered (in the long run) both ways.

Take a trip back to “Sweet Home, Chicago” and watch this again. The movie holds up well and you may find yourself cussing out your parents all over again.

9 out of 10

theband
Joey, have you ever been to a Roman bath?

The Look

The movie looks like the suits Jake and Elwood wear when they wake up. Perfectly pressed and looking stylish. And, you wouldn’t expect it.

The movie looks great for 25 years old. Universal obviously found a good source for the transfer material. Even the new added scenes look great and blend into the movie perfectly.

9 out of 10

The Noise

A musical better have good sound. Particularly one that boasts the legendary performances that are in the Blues Brothers. The sound doesn’t disappoint. The musical sequences contain performances by Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and, of course, the “good ole Blues Brothers band, from Chicago.”

The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (extended cut. The theatrical cut is in Dolby 2.0). The songs come through fantastic and will have you swaying on your sofa. Also, it does not run into the technical problem of the dialogue being drowned out or at a different level as the music. The witty banter and classic lines the actors deliver come through perfectly.

9 out of 10

mememe
With Batman out of town, city officials have no choice but to light the Blues Signal!

The Goodies

This disc comes stacked with extras. Some of the extras are apparently the same as the extras that appeared on the 20th Anniversary edition. I don’t have that version, so (for the rating below) I’m approaching them all as new (to me).

- Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film. Both sides of the disc come with a version of the film. One side as the theatrical cut and the other side has the longer extended version. Is there anything in the extended version that’s overly impressive? Not really. If you are a die hard fan, you’ll want to see the footage. Beyond that, it is passable – nothing that really brings anything new to the film.

- Making Of documentary. Landis has mentioned that this documentary was made for the 20th Anniversary. I can see why they include it again – it’s fantastic. It is a series of interviews spliced together on a variety of topics relating to the movie. Everyone tells interesting anecdotes about the making of the movie. It is really interesting to hear some of the tales Landis tells about the logistical hassles they encountered. They did the hard way what is done today with CGI and camera tricks. His stories about actually dropping a car from the air to film its fall and the stunt drivers really driving 100+ on Wacker Drive

- Remembering John. This feels like more of the same after the Making of documentary. It is also interviews with the cast (feels like they even pulled from the same stock footage at times) and spliced together. A nice piece, but it could have been encompassed above just as well.

- Introduction of the film. This is really bad. I don’t get the film “introduction.” It was just Aykroyd saying “I hope you like it.” It really served no point. The funny thing was it looked like he didn’t know if he should be serious or make jokes. So, he does the entire thing straight while seemingly holding down a joke or two. It comes off very odd.

- Musical Highlights. If there’s a scene from the movie with singing, it is pretty much repeated here.

- Blues Brothers on Stage. This was a great extra to include on the disc. It was something different, but yet in tune with the movie. Plus, I’ve always wanted to see the Blues Brothers on stage. I think the show would be a blast. After seeing the 15 minutes or so included on this disk, however, I’m no longer too sure. It came across as a poser (Jim Belushi) and an old guy (Aykroyd) trying to act hip. I’m sure I’d still go in a second, if given the chance, but my enthusiasm level definitely dipped a bit.

- Transporting the Music. This documentary talks about the music and the musicians that made the Blues Brothers. Good stuff.

9.5 out of 10

The Artwork

This is almost perfect. This is one of the few times I think having only an actor or two on the cover and more or less nothing else is needed. Jake and Elwood (in complete garb – sunglasses, hats and suits) need to be front and center, and they are.

9 out of 10


Overall: 9.1 out of 10