Blues Brothers 2000 Review – “The Lord works in mysterious ways”

(Editor’s Note: Kathryn has he own cult movie blog She Cult The Katy – check out her stuff!)

Blues Brothers 2000 squareBlues Brothers 2000 picks up from where we left off in real-time. It’s been eighteen years since the first Blues Brothers, and Blues Brothers 2000 is set eighteen years later. Unfortunately in the interim we lost the great John Belushi, but John Belushi is not the only friend and member of the team we lost during this time. The film begins with a little tribute to John Belushi, Cab Calloway and John Candy.

So we are missing a brother. But John Landis did not shy away from this with a cheap excuse of where Jake was, like doing another stretch in prison. No, we open as before on a prison but this time it is Elwood who is getting out. Elwood waits outside the prison for a whole day and a night until finally a prison guard spots him and goes out to tell him that Jake will not be picking him up because he has passed away. Not only this but Curtis (Cab Calloway), Jake and Elwood’s lovable father figure, is also no longer with us. It looks like hard times have fallen on Elwood Blues. I guess now he really has reason to sing the blues. And that tone is reflected in the film’s soundtrack. You’ll notice that a lot of the music from the original film is not exactly what you would call bluesy. But this really is. Don’t worry though, there’s still a lot of soul, soft rock, rock n’ roll, and even some bluegrass.

The loss of Jake brings another dynamic shift to this film. Whereas in the previous film Jake did much of the talking, now Elwood is left to do that. He becomes a quite different character from the tall silent type we knew and loved (Though of course he is still very tall). He also seems to be a little less reckless, which is a great shame. Even his driving seems to have improved. It seems to be a genre shift that has come with a shift in audience. This film seems to be aimed more at children which is evident by the fact that we now have a child protagonist in Buster. Buster is like Elwood, a child of the state. After a fun little blast from the past with Mother Mary Stigmata, Elwood is given Buster to mentor and told that he has a sort of stepbrother in the illegitimate son of Curtis. So now we have a goal: to find Curtis’ son and to, as always, get the band back together. Except this time they’re not on a mission from God. That was something I feel was missing from this film. Though they did add in a new quote: “the Lord works in mysterious ways”, which I liked.

Anyway, moving on to the next scene and they have found Curtis’ son who turns out to be a cop and Miles Bennett Dyson creator of Skynet (Terminator 2: Judgement Day). Anyway, Miles looks Elwood up on the computer (I wouldn’t let him use a computer or Skynet might become self-aware) and finds out who he is, so is immediately pretty dubious of him. He rejects Elwood’s offer to be in his band and refuses to loan a brother $500 for a car. He throws him out of the police station but he drops his wallet on the way. Elwood takes the $500 and goes on his merry way to buy a car from B.B. King before going on his quest to get the band back together. The first stop? A strip joint with the best music you’ve ever heard, coming from a strip joint, at least. And of course, Elwood’s young friend Buster is still in tow. The nun’s think he has been kidnapped and the police think Elwood has stolen money from an officer. But the next day the wallet is returned to Miles Bennett Dyson with the $500 repaid.

Back at the strip club we get our first song of the film ‘Cheaper to Keep Her’ – a great little number sang by Elwood. And soon after we get our second song sung by ‘Mighty’ Mack McTeer (John Goodman) who is the bartender at the strip club. He sings ‘Looking for a Fox’ in a pair of ‘mom jeans’ and somehow still manages to look cool. I mean he’s not Jake but nobody said he was and he’s not trying to be. Anyway he joins the band and now we have three Blues Brothers (Elwood, Mack and Buster) all kitted out in the suits and sunglasses. Buster was kind of an annoying addition but he does look totally adorable in the get-up. So anyway, now we have our team and also some ridiculous plot about some Russian gangsters having a vendetta against the strip-club. They burn it down and that’s why, without questions or hesitation, Mack joins the band.

Goodman joins the gang and the show gets on the road, quite literally.

Goodman joins the gang and the show gets on the road, quite literally.

Next they go to get Blue Lou Marini and Matt Guitar Murphy who now work for Mercedes.  And of course Aretha Franklin is still ‘not about’ her husband going off to tour with some dumb band. We get a brilliant rendition of ‘Respect’ with some fantastic choreography. And by that I mean that it’s still as crappy as ever and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Apart from the little guy, he has got some moves but he gets away with it. Anyway, Aretha gets pretty tired after all that singing and gives in pretty easily to Elwood and co. After this they pick up Mr Fabulous at a Russian Orthodox funeral (‘Cause that makes so much sense and is obviously not just a ploy to get that plot back into the film…). Then they go to Ed’s Love Exchange to pick up another band member. Here we get my favourite song of the film: ‘634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.)’. I’m still singing this one. Which means I’m literally going around singing “6345789”.

So the band is back together and on the road! Whilst on the road they run into Blues Traveler (who are awesome, by the way). John Popper asks Elwood if he would come see their band play. Elwood says yes, but of course never goes. Still, we get to hear Blues Traveler perform ‘Maybe I’m Wrong’ and it’s great. So anyway, after Buster has now been missing for a whole week, the nun’s finally call the cops on Elwood. After nearly getting caught by the police at a road stop café, we get a little cameo from the guy who owned the Honky Tonk bar in the first film. After this the band escape the police because the Bluesmobile can now turn into a submarine. Then we get an odd scene with Darrell Hammond who is leading some white supremacist/Confederate gathering similar to the Nazi rally in the first film. This scene ends with an explosion. So that’s pretty fun.

As different as the film's are in quality, the choreography and music throughout the two Blues Brothers is something to be marveled at.

As different as the film’s are in quality, the choreography and music throughout the two Blues Brothers is something to be marveled at.

The next scene is a little tribute to ‘The Good Ol’ Blues Brothers Boys Band’ scene where the band end up playing Rawhide to please a crowd of country fans. In this film the band are playing at a state fair of some kind. You know the type – Monster Trucks in tow. Anywho, they think they’re the Bluegrass Brothers so again the band have to play something pretty out of character. The police have also surrounded the fair so Elwood, Mack and Buster have to sneak in with Elwood hidden in the glove compartment. This is probably the best joke in the film. It is oddball, wacky and it feels like a Blues Brothers joke. Anyway the band play ‘Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend’ and it goes down a storm. Literally. A storm comes and the band manage to evade the police. But the band are in low spirits, so Elwood gives a great speech about the degradation of music today that I feel akin with. The team get back on the road and I’m not really sure how we end up here but they find themselves in one of those church-tents with the police close behind them. Anyway, as you can imagine here is where we once again find James Brown and we get into a similar scene from the first film resulting in Miles Bennett Dyson seeing the light.

This was an unexpected turn.

This was an unexpected turn.

He decides to join the band and then the guys are off on their way to audition for Battle of the Bands (good luck beating The School of Rock on that one). This seems to be being held in New Orleans at a weird mansion where they keep alligators on leashes. The judge of this audition? A 130-year old voodoo witch who eats people. Well, the lord does work in mysterious ways. This witch asks the band to play something Caribbean and when they refuse she casts a spell on them to make them do it. But at least she lets them into the contest. Even though the song isn’t exactly very Caribbean anyway. For this scene they had the band turn green. I don’t see why they had to turn it into The Mask.

"I just don't think people will get that they're cursed..." "What if, and bear with me here, what if we made them green?" "...This is it, we're going to get the Oscar."

“I just don’t think people will get that they’re cursed…”
“What if, and bear with me here, what if we made them green?”
“…This is it, we’re going to get the Oscar.”

So, the battle of the bands gets under way and the Blues Brothers are up against the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddly and so many more. But with a new asset in Miles Bennett Dyson (who can really sing by the way) and some killer choreography, our guys wow the crowd. The Russians turn up but the witch sorts it out with her powers. The police turn up but Miles Bennett Dyson is all “Everything’s cool. We cool”. Then everybody has a nice big jam. But there’s still the problem of Buster. Fortunately, they have a brilliant plan. So Elwood can avoid going back to prison for kidnapping Buster, Buster kidnaps him. So that’s nice.

And there you have it; Blues Brothers 2000 in  nutshell. It’s not quite as funny as the first film, and they perhaps tried a little too hard with the plot. What worked so well about Blues Brothers is that none of the plots really made sense and a lot of them didn’t go any further than Carrie Fisher turning out to be the jilted lover of Jake, bent on destroying him. The film feels like it targets a slightly younger audience than the first film but Blues Brothers was always a film for all the family. We all know what one of the best parts was the soundtrack and the soundtrack for this film is just as excellent as the first; I think Aykroyd and Landis should be given credit for that much. Many people criticise sequels when they feel they are unnecessary, but why? Sure, some of them suck but there are also some fantastic sequels – Terminator 2, for example. The Lord works in mysterious ways, so why encourage studios to stop making them? Even if they’re a little disappointing, they don’t take anything away from your precious original movie. Plus it’s always fun to go back and further explore a world everyone loved. I think this film is just that. A fun, further exploration into a world we all know and love. So cut it some slack. Just sit back, enjoy the music and enjoy the ride (Rawhide).