Based on their recurring SNL characters, Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi bring The Blues Brothers to the big screen. One of the timeless cult classics that, after decades of beloved spoofs, Halloween costumes, and anniversaries, has assimilated itself into the minds of millions. There’ll be people across the globe who know the iconic black suits more than the film itself. Quite rightly, too, since these black suits are now synonymous with just about every nostalgic, 80s-driven mind. Blame The Blues Brothers for such a startlingly sudden trend.
With John Landis behind the camera, we have, at the very least, steady hands. There aren’t any great moments that he can put his name to, much of the humour or highlights comes from our leading pair. Solid as they are, there’s something intensely enjoyable about how serious they take their roles. Done so with earnest, wry charm, it’s hard to imagine how this would have turned out if it weren’t handled with such violently manic solemnity. A collection of great musicians lend their names to this piece, and their acting often outshines the leading pair. Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin both make superb appearances, reminding us once again that musicians can make the transition to acting with such genuine ease.
Belushi and Aykroyd have undeniable chemistry with one another, The Blues Brothers relies on this frequently and, where possible, never separates the two of them. A collection of solid supporting performers make the rounds too. Carrie Fisher stands out in particular. Her lineless opening is a superb bit of comedy. John Candy’s appearance as a detective is solid too. But these are big names to have as throwaway side projects that never see the finish line. Landis relies so frequently on visual comedy and stylings, rather than witty dialogue. Memorable, sure, but not all that smart. It doesn’t have to be. Aykroyd’s infamous mission from God repetition is marvellous, better than you could possibly expect. But aside from that, there’s no bite or genius to the jokes that aren’t wheeled out by avid fans quoting to their heart’s content.
Competently directed, with some solid humour throughout, at its best The Blues Brothers is a consistent comedy released in a golden age for the genre. Nazi parades, exploding houses and multiple antics that rely on the humour of being so beyond the pale, it’s a strong comedy feature with two legends of the genre at its heart. It has the deranged energy required by the genre at this time, but doesn’t have the consistency that Airplane or Repo Man brought to the table. Not quite watertight in the story and pacing department, but a certainly fun bit of film. Sometimes, that’s all a picture needs to be.