THE BLUES BROTHERS

40 YEARS ON, THEY'RE STILL ON A MISSION FROM GOD

RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
13th June 2020

Saturday Night Live: we all have our favourite skits, characters and moments. Having been on the air for over 45 years, its legacy spans worldwide. From Stefon to Debbie Downer, Gilly to Church Lady and Mary Katherine Gallagher to Roseanne Roseannadanna, the show has iconic characters in the hundreds. But in 1978, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi came together to form The Blues Brothers, who became an instant hit with fans and cast members on the show - and for the first time ever, SNL headed to the big screen with 1980's 'The Blues Brothers', a mere two years after the characters first debuted on the show.

The film follows brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, blood brothers who are on a mission from God to save the orphanage they grew up in by raising $5,000. To do this, they must reunite the Blues Brothers band and make the deadline - otherwise, they risk losing it all.

'The Blues Brothers' opened a month after the little-known sequel 'The Empire Strikes Back' (both films featuring Carrie Fisher), which of course was still dominating the box office. While the film was the tenth highest-grossing film of 1980 and received extremely positive reviews, the film really cemented its cult status when it became a late-night cinema hit, with audience participation screenings inviting fans to dressed up and sing along.

'THE BLUES BROTHERS' TRAILER

One thing that makes 'The Blues Brothers' stand out even compared to today's comedies is the star power of the late John Belushi. In 1981, Belushi relapsed from his drug addiction and struggled with it for the next year, and on the 5th of March 1982 was found dead from a drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and heroin. His death was met with international mourning; aged only 33, the comedic genius was gone too soon. Belushi was on the rise and set to star in a lot of huge upcoming films, including 'Ghostbusters' and 'Spies Like Us', both with Aykroyd.

The dynamic that Aykroyd and Belushi had impacted the comedy genre for decades to come - it was imitated but never bettered by Rogen and Franco, Ferrell and Reilly, Pegg and Frost, and even fellow SNL actors like Fey and Pehler and Wigg and Rudolph. But more than anything, the soundtrack to the film is a cut above the rest.

As Barry B. Benson would say, 'You like Jazz?' because 'The Blues Brothers' soundtrack is full of jazz hits; from 'Gimme Some Lovin', 'Shake a Tail Feather', 'Think' and 'Jailhouse Rock', the film's musical moments shine. You can't have powerhouse Aretha Franklin in your film and not have the music be this good. Every performance is filled with so much energy, and it puts a lot of modern musicals to shame.

The dynamic that Aykroyd and Belushi had impacted the comedy genre for decades to come - it was imitated but never bettered by Rogen and Franco, Ferrell and Reilly, Pegg and Frost, and even fellow SNL actors like Fey and Pehler and Wigg and Rudolph.

It would be another 12 years before SNL released another film with 'Wayne's World', which also grew a similar cult status, but the films that followed really proved that SNL didn't have what it takes to have a cinematic impact. 'Coneheads', 'A Night at the Roxbury', 'Superstar' and 'It's Pat' (which holds a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes) all failed at the box office. 'The Blues Brothers' also saw another cinematic venture in 'Blues Brothers 2000', which fans rejected - it missed everything that made the first film stand out, and it was noticeably missing Belushi's talent.

The legacy of 'The Blues Brothers' is so huge that the sequel only made the brilliance of the original stand out even more. It remains one of the most well-received comedies of all time, and will continue to hold strong as time goes on. Put on a suit, grab some sunglasses 'cause it's time to go on a mission from God.

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