A love letter to The Blues Brothers

Everyone has a few films that are dear to their heart. There are movies we like, there are movies we love and then there are the movies that we are in love with. The ones where if they are brought up, our knees start to tremble and we can’t stop talking about how amazing the movie is, as if they were the boy or girl you just started dating.

I don’t know what movies make feel that way, and couldn’t even try to predict them. This question provokes the most wide-ranging responses because it isn’t just the quality of the movie which helps it force its way into your heart. There are so many outside factors at play when it comes to this ‘decision’, and I put decision in quotes because, as we all know, what we truly love is not a decision.

For me, the movie I am truly in love with is The Blues Brothers. It’s not a controversial stance. This is a beloved movie. It sits at a solid 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and was a success at the box office at the time. The legacy still lives on with Blues Brothers merch still being readily available and their songs often being on compilation albums. There is a long-running live Blues Brothers show at Universal Studios Florida that still runs to this day, 27 years after it opened.

It’s definitely earned it’s title as a classic, even though it is one of the weirdest movies ever made. It’s based off a Saturday Night Live sketch, which is weird to think about. Originally they were just there to warm up the live crowd but were so good they earned a spot on the show proper in 1978. But out of all the things to get a movie from Saturday Night Live, how was it the Blues Brothers? While Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were amazing at the bit, way too good in fact, it was just a bit. A musical interlude.

And if you were to look at the movie’s synopsis, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a quick cash grab. The orphanage that Jake and Elwood Blues was raised in is set to be closed down due to a tax bill, so they try and put on a show to raise the money needed to save it. That’s one of the most overused and clichéd stories ever made. It’s so cliché that it was the story to Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo. And that movie is such a joke, the title is a meme.

Yet from the opening scenes, the movie reveals itself to have one of the daftest senses of humour ever put to celluloid. In an early scene, the Blues Brothers are berated and caned by a nun for swearing. As she berates them one final time from the top of the stairs, she floats away. No explanation, she just does it. This is then followed up by the now iconic car chase through a shopping mall and the Blues’ bedsit apartment being blown up by a vengeful ex-fiancée’s rocket launcher. Surrealism is the name of the game here and they pull it off perfectly.

While much of the movie is the Blues Brothers going around and getting the band back together, meeting musical legends like Ray Charles and the recently passed Aretha Franklin on the way, what’s really happening is that they are creating a long list of enemies. The ex-fiancée, the police, the Illinois Nazis and a country band all end up caught up the path of wreckage the Blues Brothers cause and are all out to get them by the end.

This means that the concert is not the grand finale. I mean the concert is amazing, Aykroyd and Belushi are genuinely brilliant musicians and their music is just as iconic on its own as the movie is. Even though it is not shot in any fancy way, it just feels like a party on screen when they get up to perform the classic ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’.

But the real finale is the massive record smashing car chase. All of the enemies the Blues Brothers have made over the film find out about the concert and so they make chase when Jake and Elwood try to sneak out. This leads to the biggest, zaniest and possibly best car chase in movie history. The destruction is stunning to see. They broke the record for most cars destroyed in a movie with 103 cars seeing the end of their days. This record stayed intact until the end of the century when the sequel Blues Brothers 2000 broke it by one. It’s just as mad as this movie. Impossible feats happen on the regular, notably a Illinois Nazi car that somehow falls from the height of a skyscraper. It’s just the maddest stuff and it’s great.

How this movie works is beyond me. It regularly breaks its own rules and can’t really decide if it’s going to be a comedy, a musical or an action movie. The people in the Blues Brothers band cannot act. There are whole song and dance sequences which are completely disregarded the moment they end. Aretha Franklin is very adamant that her husband should not re-join the band, singing the classic ‘Think’. But then as soon as the song ends he’s joined the band again and she’s left angry in her soul food restaurant. It’s the same when Ray Charles tests an organ out playing and singing ‘Shake A Tail Feather’. He does it to stop the Blues Brothers from claiming it’s on its last legs so getting it for cheap. But by the end he gives it away for an IOU. It should be infuriating that the movie just wastes your time like this. But it some how gets away with it.

And whatever they did must have been magic because it was really hard to replicate it. The late 1990s sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, featured John Goodman coming into replace John Belushi due to his unfortunate death just a few years after the original was released. They did many of the same things, abrupt musical numbers that were ignored, bizarre sequences, one of which including a voodoo queen, and obviously some great music. But that was a terrible movie, reviled by critics at the time and has since had the ignominy of being forgotten. Despite pretty much all the same people working on it as the original, it just didn’t work.

So I’ve explained why The Blues Brothers is a classic movie and one that is still beloved to this day. But why is this a love letter and not just a review? Well that’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I re-watched it for about the millionth time when I discovered it on Netflix. And it’s down to my family. I love my family but I have to admit, we are all very different people. We all have different interests and often mock each other for it. That ranges to movies too. I can show a movie I love to my family and they’ll take the piss and wonder what I’m thinking when I say it’s good.

But not with The Blues Brothers. We all love this movie. If it ends up on, we will usually stop us from anything useful we are doing so we can watch it. The film, and the soundtrack along with it, are ingrained into our family. I’ve given my mum about 50 Blues Brothers CDs as she inevitably ruins them by overplay/not using the case. My brother used to dress up as a Blues Brother when he was a kid. We played Everybody Needs Somebody To Love at my grandad’s funeral. It’s a special movie for us.

I think we all have a movie like this, one we love not just because of the film but because of what it means to us. Heck, I’d say that the movie doesn’t even need to be good to be that one. It can be the only video your grandmother had so you re-watched it constantly when you were at her’s. It could be the movie your dad deliberately sat you down to watch because he loved it so much. It could be the first movie you ever saw at the cinema. Whatever it is, keep it special in your heart like I do with The Blues Brothers.