A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Blues Brothers is a classic 1980 comedy in which John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play music-obsessed siblings trying to reunite their old band in order to save the Chicago orphanage where they grew up. There's frequent comedic violence, including some of the most ludicrous, over-the-top car chases ever put to film, as well as a jilted bride (played by Carrie Fisher) who detonates explosives, fires a rocket launcher, and shoots a machine gun at the Blues Brothers in order to get revenge. There is one use of the "N" word, occasional use of "f--k" and its variations, and other profanity throughout the movie. Characters smoke and drink. On the positive side, this movie features classic performances from so many of the legendary performers of jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues, including Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, as well as the studio musicians backing up the Blues Brothers, legendary musicians in their own right.
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What's the story?
After three years in prison for robbery, Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released with one thing on his mind: Getting the band back together. His brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) has something else on his mind -- getting right with God. The brothers discover that the orphanage where they grew up will be sold if they can't raise $5,000 to pay the tax assessor, and set out to raise the money by getting the band back together and holding a benefit concert. Along the way, they meet up with some of the great R&B musicians of all time: James Brown preaching in a Baptist church; Aretha Franklin belting out "Think!" in her soul food restaurant; Cab Calloway singing to a packed house; Ray Charles singing about doing the twist in a pawn shop. Along with great music, their quest is full of car chases, property destruction, and repeated explosions. Jake and Elwood are scamps, but they pay for the damage they do, and do good in the end.
Is it any good?
THE BLUES BROTHERS holds a special place in cult movie lovers' hearts for a reason. It's surreal, it's got style, and it has great music. Indeed, it's a cross between a Saturday Night Live skit and a really great musical. Even if you hate the flimsy plot, you're likely to be humming the songs days later.
Though teens may find parts of it slow and may need to be educated about old school R&B, the film is likely to become a favorite. Expect to hear them quoting lines ("Mom, we're on a mission from God," when you question where they're going) and to see them wearing their sunglasses all the time. In the end, you get the sense that this movie is the teenage boy's dream inside Dan Aykroyd and John Landis, the cowriters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Elwood and Jake's morals are -- or aren't --reflected in their behavior. For instance, they want to save the orphanage they grew up in, but they lie, cheat, and steal to raise the money. Is the damage they cause justified by their goal?
What are the ways in which this movie exposes viewers to legendary performers of jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues? Why do you think these sequences are so prominent in this movie?
How is violence used for the sake of comedy in this movie?
- In theaters: July 16, 1980
- On DVD or streaming: August 30, 2005
- Cast: Aretha Franklin, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, John Belushi, Ray Charles
- Director: John Landis
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: comic violence and language
- Last updated: May 15, 2020
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