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Belushi vs. Belushi

Sizing up two of the late actor’s classic roles

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As the impressively vulgar, often mute Bluto in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978, R, 1 hr., 49 mins.), out this week on Blu-ray, John Belushi used all the gonzo technique he’d honed on Saturday Night Live. In collaboration with director John Landis, he made his performance seem improvised, open, and eager. In The Blues Brothers (1980, R, 2 hrs., 13 mins.), also making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut, his face was a mask covered by Ray-Ban shades. Belushi, partnering with his pal Dan Aykroyd and directed by Landis once again, was now a superstar cashing in on an SNL routine that played better (more intense, more curt) on the small screen. Where Bluto liberated Belushi, Jake Blues constrained him — worse, made him look like a white soul-man poseur. No doubt about it: Bluto is the first, best, and most anarchic role Belushi ever had.