John Belushi was one of the most beloved and respected comedy actors who ever lived. So to show that deep respect and admiration… they made a terrible biopic movie that just takes a big dump on Belushi, his family, friends and loyal fan base all in one go.
That’s right, I’m going to take a look at the cinematic disaster that was Wired.
How The Disaster Began
It was when Belushi’s widow, Judith and his manager Bernie Brillstein approached Bob Woodward and asked him if he would like to write a factual account of the life of John Belushi in an attempt to straighten some of the rumours that had been circulating over his death at the time. The result of which was the book – Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.
Several of Belushi’s closest family and friends were interviewed for the book including his widow Judith his brother James Belushi and closest friend Dan Aykroyd. Yet none of them were happy with the final product as they felt to book was exploitative and not representative of the John Belushi they knew and loved. In fact, Judith detested the book so much that she eventually wrote her own account on the life of her husband withSamurai Widow.
Even though the family and friends of Belushi hated the book and made that very clear, it still went on to become a best seller. Woodward then sought out to sell the movie rights to the book and the result of that was the movie Wired.
It Gets Bad Within Minutes
The movie opens with Belushi leading the Killer Bees in a rendition of the classic blues song I’m The King Bee in what is supposed to be a scene from Saturday Night Live – but as the film couldn’t secure the rights to use anything from SNL, these scenes look less like something from one of the biggest and most popular shows of the 70s/80s and more like something shot in a dingy basement. But it gets worse, so much worse.
Before I get much further into this cinematic mess of a film – I would just like to point something out. Yes the movie is beyond terrible but I have to recognise Michael Chiklis in his debut film role playing John Belushi. He is amazing and nails the Belushi performance, the mannerisms, the high energy, the voice – he even gets the eyebrow thing nailed. Chiklis is most definitely the best thing this film has to offer. The movie is horrendous but I still would suggest watching it just for Michael Chiklis’ amazing performance.
Anyway, as I was saying – the movie gets bad right from the off. After the brilliantly acted but terrible looking opening, the film cuts to Belushi’s dead body in a body-bag being wheeled into a morgue lying on a gurney. Belushi’s body is left alone in the morgue when suddenly a hand from the body-bag pops out, grabs a donut, eats it and then burps before getting up from the gurney and running down the corridor of the morgue. Yes you just read that right. This film has the dead body of one of America’s much loved and dearly missed comedy actors returning from the dead, swallow a donut like a cartoon character and then run around a morgue naked except for a sheet covering his modesty.
The film also has Bob Woodward appear played by J. T. Walsh. Yes, the author of the book that the film is based on is a character in the film. That is not so much 4th wall breaking but more so just smearing the 4th wall in excrement. Anyway, Belushi escapes the morgue and runs into a taxi driving angel… seriously, his name is Angel and he’s an angel – the film quickly becomes one of those ‘guardian angel’ flicks where the main character is shown his life and what went wrong… only done badly. So if you have been keeping up so far, this is a biography where the dead body of John Belushi comes back to life and is driven around in a taxi by an angel to be shown how crap his life was.
Can you understand why Belushi’s family and friends felt this film was disrespectful?
Disrespectful And Exploitative
Angel takes Belushi to the scene of his death just in time to see his corpse being carried away. We then get that overused and bog-standard scene where the dead body doesn’t believe they are dead and the reveal by the guardian angel that no one can see or hear him. Angel then takes Belushi on a tour of his life. Think A Christmas Carol only written by the same guy that wrote The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – because it was. Wired’s screenplay was penned by Earl Mac Rauch and also the last movie he wrote.
We are introduced to Dan Aykroyd played by Gary Groomes who lectures Belushi on his drug intake. The film also shows various SNL performances and sketches featuring The Brothers Blues – not The Blues Brothers because, as I mentioned earlier, the movie didn’t have the rights to use certain names. These Brothers Blues scenes are pretty well done though and again, Chiklis provides a stunning performance and if you didn’t know better – you could swear that was the real John Belushi at times as his dancing, movements and mannerisms are perfect.
The film takes us on a mish-mash of various ‘flashbacks’ to Belushi’s life but fails to show anything of his actual life. It becomes more a collection of SNL sketches that didn’t really exist because they didn’t have the rights to use them. They couldn’t even use the names of some of the people Belushi was closely associated with in his career.
There is one scene where John asks Judith to marry him and its really well done too, its personal, emotive and well shot. But sadly these scenes that do delve into his life and that of those around him that could have been more interesting if they were the focus are few and far between as the movie is more focused on trying to hammer home that drugs are bad. The film is basically one overtly long anti-drug PSA and not a respectful biography of John Belushi.
But the opening of the dead body of John Belushi waking up and running around naked was just the tip of the iceberg as this movie even manages to out-do its own disrespect. There is a scene in the movie that shows Belushi’s autopsy… and that’s not the worst of it. Belushi is depicted as being awake during this as its played up for laughs as Angel dances around in the background and Belushi screams in pain as well as do impersonations of Marlon Brando while a laugh track plays.
Just take that in for a moment and try to put yourselves in the shoes of a family member or friend of John Belushi watching that scene. Seeing a person you loved and cared about screaming during an autopsy while a laugh track plays over the top. Yeah pretty disrespectful right?
A Diamond In The Rough
Look, the film is horrendous, disrespectful and exploitative. It just shows no regard, no attention, no respect to John Belushi, his life or anyone that knew him. However, there are some great moments in the flick. Aside form Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, Patti D’Arbanville plays Cathy Smith – the woman who supplied Belushi with most of his drugs and who injected him with the speedball that killed him. D’Arbanville’s portrayal of the drug dealer is mesmerising as she is interviewed by the police. The scene is brilliantly acted and shot as well as being brutally honest. An excellent scene… just a shame it ends with the line “Just another fat junkie went belly up” in reference to the death of John Belushi.
But then there’s a scene where they show Belushi’s coffin being loaded onto a plane and its handled in a slapstick/comedy manner as they struggle to get the dead body of John Belushi on-board. As they just can not fit the coffin on the plane, they decide to take his dead body out and just strap it into a seat instead. I know I have used the word ‘disrespectful’ more than a few times in this article but what else can I call this scene?
The last act of the movie mostly takes place in the room Belushi’s died in and again, its well done for the most part. Well directed, well shot and well acted – its moody and effective. But then these scenes are inter-cut with Belushi and Angel playing a Blues Brothers pinball table where its agreed that if Belushi wins that he can go home. This is the main problem with this film, the good scenes – and there are some really good scenes are ruined with slapstick and inane comedy. One second you are watching Cathy Smith inject John Belushi with the fatal drug cocktail that killed him in a scene that is brilliantly convinced, portrayed and very powerful, then seconds later you watching ghost Belushi play pinball with an angel or even Bob Woodward interviewing John Belushi quite literally as he slowly dies. For every great scene in this film, there are a dozen or so bad scenes that ruin them.
Wired is a mess of a picture. It depicts Belushi as a burping, farting imbecile and shows hardly anything of his good and caring nature. I know Belushi was no angel. I’m fully aware of his legendary drug taking and how he could and would disrupt a film shoot. His behind the scenes antics are well known and reported on. Yet despite all of this, the people that knew him best like his widow Judith and best friend Dan Aykroyd always said that he was one of the most caring and thoughtful people they knew. A man who underneath his many demons still had a heart of gold.
This movie shows pretty much none of that and chooses to portray Belushi as a thoughtless, careless drug addict. As a bio – the movie just does not work as it tells very little about the life of John Belushi other than he liked drugs a lot. Then as a movie about drug abuse it falls flat as all of the hard hitting and well shot scenes that are supposed to leave an impact on the viewer are book-ended and inter-cut with unnecessary bad, slap-stick comedy. There are just not enough ‘ WTF Hollywood’s’ to go around.
A new John Belushi biopic has been rumoured for quite some time as back in 2013 Emile Hirsch was said to have been cast to play Belushi.
The film was set to be relased in 2015 and obviously, that never happened and nothing has been heard of since. Wired was such a huge insult and disappointment for John Belushi fans that a new bio that does the great man justice would be welcomed with open arms. Make it happen Hollywood, give us a worthy Belushi bio that can wash away the bad taste of Wired.