The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."

"Hit it."

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For brilliantly executed slapstick comedy, wildly inventive car chases, unforgettable lines and a stonking blues soundtrack, you just can't beat The Blues Brothers. The story of Jake and Elwood Blues, two petty criminals who set self-interest aside to try to save an orphanage, is one of the all time greatest road movies, featuring sadistic nuns, bitter Illinois Nazis, the most police cars ever brought together for one pursuit, and a psychotically vengeful Carrie Fisher.

It also stars some of the greatest musicians who ever lived, with perfectly integrated performances by the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Cab Calloway, and James Brown as a charismatic preacher man. Now, 25 years after it first hit cinema screens, it's back to thrill a new generation of fans.

It's hard to explain to unbelievers and the uninitiated just what the magic of The Blues Brothers is, because really it all boils down to perfect execution. The charismatic performances of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who play their parts absolutely straight, are certainly a big asset, but it's the overall confidence with which this has been put together that makes the humour work so well and, in the process, comes close to redefining cool.

It's packed with classic moments like Belushi's falsetto performance of Stand By Your Man and a final chase so ludicrously over the top that it goes beyond mere spoof into unexplored territory. Whilst this might in some ways be seen as an early postmodern critique of comedy conventions, it has so much genuine heart that it's impossible not to love. "I know about exploitation," says Elwood when asked about marketing. "I've been exploited all my life."

These days we tend to think of the blues as melancholy music and this film reminds us how terrifically danceable it can be. It's not as slick and polished as more recent comedies have taught us to expect but every bit of grime and sleaze works in its favour. And whilst some of its plotting verges on the ludicrous, it gets away with everything simply by being so much fun. Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy it on the big screen.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2009
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The Blues Brothers packshot
Two sometime blues musicians and petty crooks aim to put on the biggest show of their lives to raise the money to save the orphanage where they grew up.
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Director: John Landis

Writer: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis

Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Fisher, Twiggy

Year: 1980

Runtime: 148 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

SSFF 2012

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