In Belushi, we relive the mighty ups and downs of a true force of genius


If you grew up in a certain generation in America, the work of John Belushi most certainly entered your life wave after comic wave.

The guy with the arching eyebrows came to my TV screen on with the cast of <em>Saturday Night Live</em> on the cusp of my college days, so I was very much all in on his quick-on-his-feet, quicker-in-his mind brand of humor.

I recall going to see <em>Animal House</em> twice, with two different groups of friends from the University of Maryland on its day of release. Yes, one early show, one late show, me somehow rounding up different souls to enjoy the frat humor that centered around Belushi’s Blutarski in a guffawing row with me.

My love for the blues and R&B grew with his turn with Dan Aykroyd as <em>The Blues Brothers</em>. A hard-nosed Chicago reporter (said to be modeled after real-life Mike Royko in <em>Continental Divide</em>, well by then I was graduated and working my own newsroom life.

I was riding in a car with a fellow sports journalist Mark O’Hara, a cat from sister paper Montgomery Journal, when news came on the radio that John Belushi had died. After we’d covered the event, we went to a Maryland bar and hoisted our beers in the direction of Los Angeles.

And so I sat down in the living room after spying <em>Belushi</em> on the Showtime program guide grid during a free view weekend ready to relive and relearn.

This 1-hour, 48-minute documentary written and directed by R.J. Cutler does so much more.

Cutler pieces together interviews with those closest to the wild ride that was Belushi’s rise and fall and places them over snap shots, video clips and interesting illustrations that together get us as close to the why as we could possibly expect.

He had America.

John Belushi died 38 years ago, at the age of 33.

Thanks to the voice and letters provided by his wife, high school sweetheart Judy, we get to see and feel him as a kid, comic prodigy at Second City and National Lampoon Radio, inside the studios and most importantly, inside that wonderful yet always yearning mind of his.

Friends and fellow players Aykroyd and particularly Harold Ramis fill in many pieces.

It’s incredibly joyful and terrifyingly tragic.

He knew just what to do with his talent. And he didn’t.

12 thoughts on “In Belushi, we relive the mighty ups and downs of a true force of genius

  1. I liked this documentary, Mark—John Belushi was a brilliant comic—but I felt it was a little light on tough decisions and turning points Belushi must have faced in his downward spiral. Likewise, in terms of his friends, the documentary fails to explore whether any of them tried to intervene to help him confront his unfortunate reality. Most seemed unfortunately and surprisingly detached from this spectacular accident-in-progress. I loved the parts of the narrative the documentary took up through illustration and voiceover. Always enjoy your reviews, Mark.


    • Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, Joe. Yes, it must have been difficult for his friends to witness the flameout. I wonder if their attempts to help went unheeded and were left out of the documentary. You never know with editing.


  2. I got to see him in National Lampoon’s Lemmings, off B’way in the early 70s. He did Joe Cocker, among other things, intense and hilarious … I will never forget it.


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