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Retro-review: 'We're on a mission from God'

BluesBrothersPoster It's hard to label The Blues Brothers, which was filmed 20 years ago this summer. Do we call it a musical? Or just a band movie? Or do we lump it in with other Saturday Night Live movies? Any way you slice it, it's a classic. That's why guest-blogger Clark Brooks, a Tampa Bay writer who channels his "ridiculously inconsistent trickle of consciousness," chose it for today's retro-review.

TODAY'S RETRO-REVIEW: 1980's The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Directed by John Landis.

THE PLOT: Musicians of questionable repute get their old band back together to raise funds to save the orphanage where they were raised.

MAYBE YOU REMEMBER: Filmed on location in Chicago and surrounding areas, The Blues Brothers featured a chase scene that destroyed 13 Illinois state police cars, 17 Cook County sherriff cars, 27 Chicago Police cars and, eventually, one 1974 Dodge Monaco with "cop tires, cop suspension and cop motor - a 440 cubic-inch plant."

SURELY YOU CAN'T FORGET: Practically a cinematic encyclopedia of 20th century American music (well, before hip-hop), it featured performances by Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker among others, as well as cameo appearances by Frank Oz, Chaka Khan, Paul Reubens, Steve Lawrence, Joe Walsh and Steven Spielberg.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID: "The Blues Brothers is the Sherman tank of musicals. When it was being filmed in Chicago in 1979 -- with dozens of cars piling up in intersections, caroming down Lake Shore Drive and crashing through the Daley Center -- it seemed less like a film than a war. The movie feels the same way. It's a big, raucous powerhouse that proves against all the odds that if you're loud enough, vulgar enough, and have enough raw energy, you can make a steamroller into a musical, and vise versa." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

WHY WE STILL LOVE IT: It’s still the gold standard of major motion pictures inspired directly by characters that started on Saturday Night Live … for what that’s worth. And because the only thing cooler than blues musicians on the run from the law is blues musicians on the run from the law, neo-Nazis, rednecks and psychotic, homicidal ex-fiancees.


5. "Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters ... sell them to me. Sell me your children."

4. "I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD."

3. "What kind of music do you usually have here?" "Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western."

2. "I hate Illinois Nazis."

1. "We’re on a mission from God."

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:46pm]


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