Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Jake Blues is released after three years in prison to discover that the world has changed in his absence.  His brother Elwood has sold the old Cadillac; their band is broken up; and the Catholic orphanage where they were raised is on the verge of closure.

But then a visit to a gospel church leaves Jake with a new purpose: to reform the band, raise $5,000 in the space of a few days, and save the orphanage.  Sure, that'll mean stealing gigs from other bands, crossing paths with Illinois Nazis, and staying one step ahead of both the law and a homicidal ex, but nothing can stop the Blues Brothers now, not when they're on a mission from God!

I first saw The Blues Brothers back in the late 1980s.  I was probably about 15 years old.  I laughed like a drain and thoroughly enjoyed all the musical numbers.  When the sequel came out about a decade later, I was one of many who felt it was much less funny than the original (though the music was still great).

I may in fact owe Blues Brothers 2000 an apology.  Not because it's suddenly become funnier in the past eighteen years, of course.  The change is in the audience, not the film.  And for this audience member at least, as I re-watched the original, I was struck by how few laughs there were, and how unexciting the famous chase scenes are.  On the latter front, I blame the Fast and Furious film franchise, as it has pretty much completely transformed expectations of car chases in movies.

This isn't the first time I have re-evaluated a film over time.  It happened with the original version of The Parent Trap, which I loved it as a tyke but find it quite uncomfortable to watch today (still love the mid-90s remake though).  I'm sure it will happen again in the future.  The simple fact is that we change as we grow older and what we enjoy changes with us.  Scenes in this film that I thought hysterical as a teen - such as Jake and Elwood misbehaving at a restaurant to force one of their former band members to quit his job there - I now find quite off-putting.

If you like blues music, then this film is certainly still worth watching, because it has a rocking soundtrack and plenty of great musical numbers in it.  And there's some historical value there for anyone who is into thinking about film and culture.

Just don't expect to find it all that funny unless you're a 15 year old boy.

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