Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Vatican endorses Jake and Elwood's "mission from God"

If you thought the Vatican didn't have a sense of humor, you were wrong!
Jake and Elwood Blues as the Catholic Church's newest saints? Not quite. But 30 years after comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd -- a.k.a. "The Blues Brothers" -- let us know they were on "a mission from God," the pope's newspaper has given the John Landis cult film two thumbs up, and then some.

"A Catholic Film" was the title of a commentary by the top editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, who has turned the once staid broadsheet into an often trendy and topical must-read.

The plot of the film -- which grew out of a "Saturday Night Live" skit popularized by Aykroyd and Belushi (who died of a drug overdose in 1982) -- revolves around Jake and Elwood's mission to raise money to save St. Helen of the Blessed
Shroud Orphanage, where they were raised, from foreclosure. Jake (Belushi) has just been released from prison, and the stern head of the orphanage, a scary nun played by the inimitable Kathleen Freeman, tells the brothers they must save the home.

Jake and Elwood (Aykroyd) then see the light (literally) in a spiritual revival show led by James Brown, and the movie duo are off on a rollicking ride to redemption, and jail.

L'Osservatore Romano's fulsome coverage in its Wednesday edition featured five articles and several photos, including a front-page piece titled "On a Mission from God (and for cinema)" that said the film should be recommended viewing for Catholics everywhere. The newspaper notes that Elwood even passes up a chance for a one-night stand with a woman played by Twiggy in order to fulfill the higher calling.

Of course, the duo break any number of civil laws on their way, but it's all for a good cause. "This is a memorable film, and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one," the newspaper said, according to Reuters.

In his editorial, Vian wrote that the evidence of the film's Catholic and spiritual heft "is not lacking in a work where details certainly are not casual." There was a "framed picture of a young and strong John Paul II in a boarding house," Vian said, and St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage was "governed by the mean, but affectionate in her own way, Sister Mary Stigmata, a.k.a. The Penguin."

Certainly the movie's soundtrack, featuring the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Cab Calloway, is a religious experience. And the whole film, if not exactly Bing Crosby in "Going My Way," is a romp worthy of some kind of veneration. "In the end they pull it off," as Vian concludes.