The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers is a 1980 American musical comedy directed by John Landis and starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues, characters developed from a musical sketch on the NBC variety series Saturday Night Live. It features musical numbers by R&B and soul singers James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. The Blues Brothers is set in and around Chicago, Illinois, and also features non-musical supporting performances by John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Charles Napier and Henry Gibson.
The Blues Brothers Plot
The Blues Brothers story is a tale of redemption for paroled convict Jake (Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd), who take on “a mission from God” to save from foreclosure the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. To do so they must re-form their rhythm and blues band, The Blues Brothers, and organize a performance to earn $5,000 to pay the tax assessor. Along the way they are targeted by a destructive “mystery woman”, Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band?all while being relentlessly pursued by the police.
Released in the United States on June 20, 1980, The Blues Brothers received generally good reviews with 84% of reviews positive according to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. It earned just under $5 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross more than $115 million in theaters worldwide before its release on home video.
“Joliet” Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released from prison after serving three years for armed robbery. Jake is at first irritated at being picked up by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) in a battered former police car, instead of the Cadillac the brothers used to own, but Elwood explains the car’s advantages. The brothers visit their childhood home, a Catholic orphanage. They learn the institution will be closed unless $5,000 in property tax is collected. Jake indicates they can quickly obtain the funds, but the orphanage director Sister Stigmata refuses to accept any stolen money. The brothers visit an evangelical church service, led by a minister played by James Brown, where Jake has an epiphany: they can legitimately raise the funds by re-forming their rhythm and blues band.
Elwood’s running a yellow traffic light is noticed by two Illinois State Police troopers, and after pulling him over and using their electronic database, the troopers learn of his suspended license. When they attempt to arrest Elwood, he speeds off, leading a high-speed chase through the Dixie Square Mall. Arriving at Elwood’s home in a rundown flophouse, the brothers are subjected to a bazooka attack launched by a mystery woman, but they are somehow unharmed. The next morning, she detonates a bomb that demolishes the building, which inadvertently saves the brothers from another arrest. The two emerge from the rubble unscathed and simply leave as if nothing had happened.
Jake and Elwood begin tracking down members of the band. Trombonist Tom “Bones” Malone and the rhythm section of the group (Willie “Too Big” Hall, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Murphy “Murph” Dunne) are playing in a mostly-empty Holiday Inn lounge, and are convinced to rejoin. Trumpeter “Mr. Fabulous”, now maître d’ at a French restaurant, is harder to sway, but Jake and Elwood force him by behaving like boorish slobs, insulting the patrons in his restaurant and promising to continue doing so every day.
En route to meet saxophonist Louis “Blue Lou” Marini and guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy, the brothers drive through a neo-Nazi rally of “the Illinois Nazis”, forcing the marchers off a bridge into Jackson Park lagoon and adding another enemy to the brothers’ rapidly-growing list. Marini and Murphy are at the soul food restaurant which Murphy owns with his wife (played by Aretha Franklin). Against her protests, the two musicians leave and rejoin the band. The reunited group uses an IOU to obtain instruments and equipment from a pawn shop whose owner is played by Ray Charles.
Jake is unable to book a gig in advance, so instead he cons his way into a gig at Bob’s Country Bunker (a country and western bar) by pretending to be The Good Ol’ Boys, the band scheduled to play that night. After a rocky start, the band wins over the rowdy, bottle-hurling crowd by playing the theme to the TV series Rawhide and “Stand By Your Man”. At the end of the evening, however, not only is their bar tab greater than the pay for the gig, but the brothers infuriate the band that was actually meant to play, the Good Ol’ Boys, who arrive at the bar late but just in time to notice the Blues Brothers. The band manages to skip out on their bar tab and escape via more trickery on the part of Jake, pursued by Bob and the Good Ol’ Boys.
The Blues Brothers blackmail a booking agent (Steve Lawrence) into securing a gig for them ? a performance at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, located over 100 miles north of Chicago. After being driven all over the area promoting the concert, their car runs out of gas, making Jake and Elwood late for the concert. The ballroom is packed, and the concert-goers are joined by the Good Ol’ Boys (carrying ax handles) and scores of Illinois State Troopers. After their mentor, Curtis, placates the audience by performing “Minnie The Moocher,” Jake and Elwood sneak into the venue and perform two songs. A record company executive offers them a cash advance on a recording contract, more than enough to cover the orphanage’s property taxes and the cost of the band’s instruments, and tells the brothers how to slip out unnoticed.
As the Blues Brothers escape via a service tunnel, they are confronted by the mystery woman, whereupon it is revealed she is Jake’s ex-fiancée. Since Jake had abandoned her before the altar, she threatens to kill them both, but Jake manipulates her with his charm, kisses her and then drops her into the tunnel’s muck, allowing the two brothers to escape to their now-refueled car. They race back to Chicago at high speed with scores of state and local police, the Illinois Neo-Nazis, and the Good Ol’ Boys in pursuit. Jake and Elwood eventually elude them all, leaving chaos and wrecked police cars en masse in their wake.
After a harrowing chase through Chicago, pursued by what appears to be every patrol car in the city, Jake and Elwood arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, crashing their car through its lobby in the process. They careen out of the lobby onto a sidewalk, where the Blues Mobile literally falls to pieces. They rush inside the adjacent Chicago City Hall building, soon followed by hundreds of Chicago police, state troopers, SWAT teams, firefighters, Illinois National Guardsmen, and the Military Police. Finding the office of the Cook County Assessor, The Blues Brothers pay the tax bill. Just as their receipt is stamped, they are handcuffed and arrested by a massive crowd of armed law officers. Jake, now joined by Elwood and the rest of the band, are sent to prison, where they play “Jailhouse Rock” for fellow inmates.