Belushi documentary on Showtime shows the breath and genius of a Chicago area cultural icon

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By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

A feature documentary from award-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler is about the too-short life of John Belushi, the once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny bones of audiences worldwide. Told using previously unheard audiotapes, this film examines Belushi’s extraordinary life in the words of his collaborators, friends, and family, including Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Penny Marshall, Lorne Michaels, Carrie Fisher, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Jane Curtin, Ivan Reitman and his high school sweetheart and later wife, Judy Belushi.

Cutler takes a revealing look at the brilliant life of this comedic legend known for his iconic characters and sketches on both stage and screen. However, few people knew his personal side, until now. The documentary, called “Belushi,” details Belushi’s early life in Wheaton, Illinois, and his joining Second City and eventually becoming a star on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Belushi just let fame go to his head and became arrogant and bratty, in my opinion. He didn’t like sharing the SNL stage with others, particularly Chevy Chase. He was pleased when Chase left that new show. Belushi was on his own to steal the show, but he was to be guarded with a short stick. He would introduce many “shock value” bits on this now iconic show.

“Belushi” promises to shed juicy details about his life. But as his fame grew, so did his demons; and not even Judy could save him from the drug use that would eventually take his life. Watching “Belushi” could put some in a gloomy space, since we know that in the end the comedian-actor succumbed to his drug addiction in 1982. But his body of films, including the homegrown “The Blues Brothers,” which featured Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Ray Charles, among others, will provide laughs for years to come.

JOHN BELUSHI, ARETHA FRANKLIN and Dan Aykroyd in a scene from ‘The Blues Brothers.”

“Belushi,” a SHOWTIME Documentary Films production, is streaming now on SHOWTIME. For more information, visit https://www.sho.com/titles/3433572/belushi.

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