But, besides providing the reason for the wild road trip the brothers make—to raise money for the church-run orphanage where they grew up—there isn’t that much church in the movie. In fact, the scene where Sister Mary Stigmata—also known as “The Penguin”—sends them on their “mission from God” is dotted with obscenities, and beatings from Sister.
Nonetheless, the editor of L’Osservatore, Gian Maria Van, said the film’s “Catholic and spiritual heft were not lacking” and was “rich with ideas.” Heck, one scene even had a photo of the young Pope John Paul II hanging on a wall. Of the brothers’ effort to save the orphanage, Van wrote: “For them, this Catholic institution is their only family—and they decide to save it at any cost.” The movie is a “memorable film and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one” (emphasis added).
Official church opinion of the film, however, was not always so positive. When The Blues Brothers first appeared, the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered this review: “The plot is interspersed with scenes of wholesale destruction and frenzied chases which are spectacularly unfunny and uninvolving . . . . Some good musical portions from Cab Calloway and Ray Charles, but not enough depth from director John Landis to save this zany comedy from milking cheap laughs from rough language and crude situations.” The bishops’ gave office the movie an A-III rating: “For Adults Only.”