Blues Brothers 2000

“The Blues Brothers” was a seminal movie eighteen years ago. It marked the first time that a “skit” from Saturday Night Live leaped to the big screen. It was a natural leap, as “The Blues Brothers” were way to big and showy for a small television screen.

Directed by John Landis, and co-written by Dan Aykroyd, “The Blues Brothers” was an all- out celebration of music and mayhem. “The Blues Brothers” was a film ahead of it’s time, a lesson in excess that would have served as a poster child for the excessive eighties. A lot has happened in eighteen years, and the wear and tear seems to have taken its toll on “The Blues Brothers.” “Blues Brothers 2000” tries to revitalize not only the spirit of the first film, but the spirit of dead comedian John Belushi, whose presence was the heart and soul of “The Blues Brothers.”

Timing is everything in movies, and “Blues Brothers 2000” misses it’s mark by about sixteen years. The novelty has worn off, and even though the latest film is a great showcase for blues music, it’s not a very good showcase for laughs.

The biggest mistake was toning down the material to generate a wider audience. Perhaps Landis and Aykroyd knew that their popularity back then was enough of an excuse to shoot for an “R” rating. The new film has been rated “PG-13,” which means a lot of the edge that made the first film’s comedy so funny is sorely missed. The writers have also tossed a 12-year old kid into the mix, as if trying to make this a family comedy.

Like the smoky venues where the great blues artists played, a “Blues Brothers” film is no place for children. The film basically rehashes elements from the first film, this time beginning with the release of Elwood Blues (Aykroyd) from prison. It’s been eighteen years since he and his brother Jake turned the city of Chicago upside down trying to save the orphanage they grew up in. When Elwood learns that Jake died while he was incarcerated, he decides to round up the old band.

A visit to the orphanage to see Mother Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman) saddles him with 12 year- old orphan Buster (a lively J. Evan Bonifant). On the road they meet bartender Mighty Mack McTeer (John Goodman), who can belt out the blues as well as Jake. Headed for New Orleans, the boys come up against radical militia members (in the first film, it was Nazis), state troopers, policemen, and the FBI. It’s a race to see if the boys will make it for one hell of a jam session that pumps up the jam for a toe- tapping finale.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film plays like a mirror version of the original. Luckily, that means some great R & B and blues artists doing what they do best. Aretha Franklin is back, this time asking for a little “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” James Brown, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, the Blues Travelers, and more contribute to the musical soundtrack of the film.

As electrifying as these performances are, you almost wish director Landis and co-writer Aykroyd has abandoned the plot in order to incorporate more of these moments. The cast is fine, and the musical numbers hint at what a great film this might have been had the film been made sixteen years ago, when all of this would have been relevant and encouraged. Now it just seems sad.



Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton, J. Evan Bonifant, Nia Peeples, Kathleen Freeman, Frank Oz in a film directed by John Landis. Rated PG-13. 123 Min.


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