Mini-Review Monday: Blues Brothers 2000

Blues Brothers 2000Release: February 16, 1998

Story: It’s been 18 years since Jake and Elwood caused havoc across Chicago as they attempted to raise $5,000 to save their childhood orphanage. Jake has now passed on, the orphanage has been torn down, the brothers’ father figure at the orphanage (Curtis, played by Cab Calloway, who introduced them to the blues) has died, as well. Lost and without a purpose, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) wants to bring the band back together and go on a musical tour, ending in New Orleans at a battle of the bands. Unfortunately, he has to drag along Buster (played by J. Evan Bonifant), a trouble making kid who Elwood has to mentor. On the band’s tail this time are angry and violent Russian mobsters, white supremacists, and the Illinois State Police led by Curtis’s illegitimate son played by Joe Morton. Joining are heroes are many familiar faces from the first movie: the band, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Frank Oz, and Mother Mary (Kathleen Freeman). There are also many other legendary musicians (such as the late B.B. King) who drop in – the battle of the bands is filled with more topnotch musicians than you’re likely to see gather in one place.

Thoughts: The music is fine. The rest, not so much. There’s a big, gaping hole where Jake should be. In the 1980 classic, Elwood and Jake were practically one character. They were both one-half of the lung that breathed life into the original and kept it going until the credits. A film with one of them missing might have good moments (if you’re lucky), but you’re likely to see the life-form hobble along, struggling to function and succeed like it once did. Aykroyd is trying hard to carry-on without his partner, but even with three other actors in Jake’s place, it’s impossible to forget his absence. There seems to be an attempt to expand on Elwood’s character this time around. He’s given the majority of the dialogue and rattles on and on in ways that don’t seem in character for the man of few words we saw in the first film. I liked the ‘what you see is what you get’ character in The Blues Brothers. Delving into Elwood and discovering what’s underneath the weird exterior simply doesn’t work.

The three new members of The Blues Brothers aren’t given much to do. Goodman especially appears to be there just for the musical numbers and little else. He’s extremely underutilized and is never treated like he’s on the same level as Elwood. They’re not true partners. You might say the only real equal to Elwood is Jake, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of filling Jake’s spot in the story, give the guy (or guys) equal importance and not treat them as if they were simply something you had to put into the script because one of your leads has passed on.

Finally, this sequel is too cartoony. In the original, there were a few over the top moments, but the story and gags had a strong footing in reality. 2000 leaves reality at the door and takes Elwood’s ability to do the impossible to an unneeded and unwanted extreme.

Needless to say, skip this one. If you want to experience the best parts of this audible misfire, listen to the soundtrack because there’s certainly nothing in this story worthy of much praise.

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