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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Briefcase Full of Blues for Your Soul
by Geoffrey D. Roberts

When "Joliet" Jake Blues is released from prision in The Blues Brothers 25th Anniversary Edition, he finds his brother Elwood waiting outside the gates. However, he quickly feels disgusted to learn the Cadillac he adored as the "Bluesmobile" has been traded for a microphone.  

After pausing a moment drinking in his surroundings, Jake (John Belushi) begins cursing Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) for making the trade and for picking him up in a marked down 1974 Dodge, which just happens to be a former police cruiser used on the same Illinois streets where he was busted. 

Jake's night keeps getting worse and worse as it unfolds. Elwood becomes too involved in their discussion to notice he has run a red light, but he could have sworn it was yellow. Jake slinks down in his seat mumbling something about going back to prision. In truth it is Elwood who's paranoid. "I sure hope they do not have SCMODS," he says. "What's SCMODS?" Jake retorts. (It stands for State Municipal Offender Data System.)

Little does Jake know how big a problem running that light will turn out to be for both brothers. Elwood is the one bound to get arrested if the regional Chicago cops can pull up the statewide record using SCMODS. Fearing going to jail himself, Jake leads the pair on a wild police chase through two floors of a suburban mall full of customers. It's one of the most difficult chase sequenses ever filmed.

The next morning, Elwood drags Jake out of bed and takes him to the orphanage where they grew up. Meeting with the nun Jake calls "the fat penguin," they learn that the orphanage is facing closure. Although the brothers want to help get her the $5,000 she needs to keep the orphanage open, she will not accept stollen or ill-gotten gains. The nun whacks Jake with a whip when he tells her she's up a creek. Elwood starts cursing because he doesn't like to see Jake getting hurt.  

The brothers end up sprawled at the bottom of the stairs with an unforgettable voice saying to them, "Don't come back until you redeem yourselves." Of course, the only way to do that involves reuniting their old band, The Blues Brothers, in order to earn $5,000 for the orphanage. 

All of the players in The Blues Brothers band are real jazz, R&B and blues artists. It may be hard to believe, but  Aykroyd and Belushi were blues vocalists, and their voices are heard on two live Blues Brothers albums and the original 1980 soundtrack. They actually sing in the film. In addition, Aykroyd is a skilled harmonica player. Twenty-five years later, he still dons Blues Brothers garb in concert with Jim Belushi and sometimes John Goodman to perform with The Blues Brothers band.  

If you get to experience any or all of the actors with the band in concert, you are truly lucky. It's an opportunity not to miss. In 1997, I was fortunate to spend an entire week of my summer vacation as an extra on the Markham Fair Grounds set of Blues Brothers 2000. The scene was a monster truck event at a country fair, with the boys booked in as The Blue Grass Brothers. A huge storm loomed as they sang "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Although I got soaked, it was a memorable experience.  

The new 25th Anniversary Edition DVD contains a May 2005 performance with Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and the Blues Brothers Band. Sadly, the producers have only included two songs from their concerts rather than give us a bonus DVD full of material. One can only hope that particular DVD will come down the pike sooner or later.

Because they realized many blues legends were dying, Belushi and Aykroyd worried that young people might never experience in full the music they themselves loved. That's why they teamed up with John Landis to make The Blues Brothers movie. Success achieving this musical goal came in the form of hilarious scenes with the late legends Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, James Brown, and Arthea Franklin among others. John Candy also appears in a pre-stardom cameo as the one cop not over-zealous to catch the Blues Brothers. 

This 25th Anniversary Edition is lovingly crafted for diehard Blues Brothers fans as well as for music and comedy lovers everywhere. The disc is dual sided. Side one includes the extended version of the movie and a comprehensive "behind-the-scenes" making of feature. 

Side two, which contains the real gems, presents the never-before-seen (on DVD or video) 1980 theatrical version of the film. It's unaltered in any way. Up until now, the studio had been releasing an "extended" version with extra footage, but this edition comes as close to a "true" director's cut as we are going to get. While the extended version is often referred to as a director's cut, it is not. The real director's cut was  foolishly destroyed. 

I recommend you start your holiday shopping early this year by purchasing multiple copies of The Blues Brothers 25th Anniversary Edition. It's a wonderful gift for mature teenagers, adults, budding musicians, fans of music and comedy -- and for anyone who needs an infusion of laughter.

(Released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment and rated "R" by MPAA. DVD features not rated.)

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