One of the most controversial biopics ever made was based on the equally controversial book by famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward. Such was the anger at how Belushi would be portrayed that lawsuits were filed, offices trashed and funding withheld by studios fearing a backlash from the powerful Creative Artists Agency. They needn’t have bothered. The film itself ensured hardly anybody saw it.
Which is a pity, for there are many good things in the film, chief amongst them Michael Chiklis’s portrayal of John Belushi. But it is all undone by two fatal framing devices. The first of these has Belushi guided through his past life by a Puerto Rican taxi-driving angel, annoyingly performed by Ray Sharkey. The second features J.T. Walsh as Bob Woodward investigating Belushi’s death. While this enables entertaining recreations from Belushi‘s life, it also facilitates tasteless fantasy segments of his death.
The resultant mess has the two converging near the film’s end with Woodward standing over a dying Belushi, dispassionately telling the comedian he was responsible for his own death. Prior to this the pair almost meet, sort of, on a Los Angeles street as present day Woodward drives alongside flashback Belushi!
In the back of the car, the angel informs the dead Belushi that Woodward is going to do for him what he did for Nixon. Despite its best efforts, this biopic even fails this modest goal.
as John Belushi
as Dan Aykroyd
Although obviously based on John Landis, the character played by Jon Snyder is listed in the credits as ‘film director’, as Landis threatened to sue if his name was used.
Unable to obtain the rights to Saturday Night Live skits, the filmmakers produced pastiches of Belushi’s work. These include Samurai Futaba playing baseball, Jake and Elwood Blues performing '634-5789', and Belushi impersonating Joe Cocker singing ‘You Are So Beautiful’.
Biopic contains many recreations of 'Saturday Night Live' skits, but only contains one recreation from Animal House to represent Belushi's film career.