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It’s the story behind a legend that few people know. A documentary about a sweet guy from the mid-west, the son of immigrants, who with the support of his high school sweetheart, became a cultural phenomenon in his 20s…before imploding and dying way too young.
John Belushi was one of the most talented, infamous, and hilarious comedic actors of his generation. Around the time of his 30th birthday, in 1978, he was on the hottest TV show of its time, Saturday Night Live, starred in the #1 movie of that summer, Animal House, and the #1 album, The Blues Brothers.
His many famous friends, including Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, and Penny Marshal share their heartfelt recollections, speaking glowingly about their pal. It’s up to Carrie Fisher to shed light on the other side of his story: addiction, it’s denial and demons.
For die-hard Belushi fans, new details are brought to life by his widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, and writer/director R.J. Cutler, in their loving portrait of this iconic comedic performers’ life and work, capturing the depths of his talent, drive and warmth.
At a time when many people are taking stock of their own lives, careers, and families, it’s mesmerizing to see Belushi’s journey to fame, fortune and creative frustration as an entertaining but cautionary tale.
Belushi hooked into the collective consciousness of people’s funny bone. He prided himself on being a disciplined anarchist: his humor was combustible but never safe.
Although he died 38 years ago, what makes his life and legacy relevant today is that he embodied an American Dream. He worked hard to succeed and be the best he could with his own unique talents, surpassing his own expectations early on, first becoming high school prom king, later becoming the king bee of early SNL’s Not Ready for Prime-Time Players, then a movie star, and a blues singer.
Younger audiences get to see the originator who influenced later generations including Jack Black, Chris Farley, Zack Galifianakis, and many others. For older audiences, the film is a joyous time capsule of some of the funniest moments of their TV viewing and film going youth, right down to the food fight scene in Animal House. Jack Black fans will see that before Tenacious D, there was another outrageous, stocky singer-actor-comedian who seemed unstoppable.
Like much of Belushi’s humor, this one is rated TV-MA. The depiction of his drug use and death are dealt with as a cautionary tale, that even good things like fame — without moderation — can lead to implosion, and addiction and addictive behavior are a medical problem that many people struggle with.