By Neal Sastry (Baltimore, Maryland)
Elwood (repeated line): “The lord works in mysterious ways.”
Beware: Spoilers may follow
Yeah, the Lord does work in mysterious ways doesn’t it? To the point that it’s so mysterious as to why this film exists in the first place (seriously did anyone really demand this to be made). Blues Brothers 2000 set 18 years after the first movie is pretty much the same as the original Blues Brothers movie…without the enjoyment. It has very little new things to offer, what is new doesn’t work, and only has half the original cast. Even those who did return at this point seemed old, tired, and just overall unfocused.
18 years after the events of the first movie Elwood Blues (Dan Akroyd) is released from prison only to learn that his brother Jake (John Belushi) has died. He visits Sister Mary Stigmata now Mother Mary Sigmata (Kathleen Freeman) who is now working at a hospital only to find out that his adopted father Curtis (Cab Calloway) has also died and the orphanage has closed down. He finds out that Curtis had an illegitimate son who had no idea that Curtis was his father named Cabel Chamberlain (Joe Morton). With the help of a kid he is given to mentor named Buster (J. Evan Bonifant) and a bartender Mighty Mack McTeer (John Goodman) Elwood sets out to reunite the band once again.
Ok, so let’s talk about the biggest problem in this movie: There is NO reason to put the band back together whatsoever. The reason for putting it back together in the original was so that they could raise money to save the orphanage. That’s what motivates the heroes to leave their jobs and do the right thing. It was the brothers’ way of gaining redemption. It’s clear that in the original when they recruit the first five band members they admit that they can never be as good as they were when they were in the Blues Brothers. However here everyone seems to have suitable jobs and well-working relationships so why would any of them leave that behind? There is nothing to chase or nothing to fight for. There is no reason for them to join the band. Elwood apparently just decided to do it.
– Buster is practically wasted in this movie. He has maybe one or two scenes where he helps Elwood. Sure he plays in the band and even wears the suit but aside from that nothing. He barely says anything let alone as much as look at Elwood in the eye. He has no character traits whatsoever. The idea was that Elwood was supposed to mentor him but there are little to no scenes where Elwood and the kid actually get along or Elwood teaching the kid anything. The only real purpose he serves is for more cops to chase Elwood and the band as the nun thinks Elwood kidnapped him.
– John Goodman as Mighty Mack brings practically nothing to the film overall. There is no feeling of genuine connection between him and Akroyd. They barely have any conversation nor is there any establishing of character between them, which is a shame because John Goodman can do good work and yet he falls flat. Add that to the fact that he and Akroyd have made several appearances in the band years before following Belushi’s passing. His dialogue is downright forgettable. You could cut him out and the film would be just fine.
– Joe Morton as Cab Chamberlain is by far the most interesting. Elwood is barely fazed by the deaths of Jake and Curtis as well as the orphanage closing down. His mourning over it is done within a two-minute scene when it should be over the first half of the movie and it never is mentioned again. Within minutes of the film he replaces them with Buster and Mack acting as if nothing had happened. Yet he’s overjoyed when he learns of Cab. Honestly the film should have been about Cab discovering his love of the blues. He’s the one with a story. He’s a brother to Elwood and is completely against joining the band when they first meet. He’s the one that has a potential story arc (which is really ruined by his “seeing of the light”). The fact that he’s a cop really works in contrast to Elwood being a former criminal.
– The movie itself doesn’t even end it just stops at a certain point, as Elwood and Buster are driving away with the police in pursuit. It seems that we’re going to get an awesome car chase. Elwood tells Buster to put on his seatbelt and…THE CREDITS ROLL! I kept watching thinking maybe they’ll play the chase scene over the credits but no.
– If there’s anything good about this movie though it’s that the soundtrack is actually really good. Some of the songs John the Revelator, Ghost Riders in the Sky, 6345789, Looking for a fox, Respect, Way Down in New Orleans, and others are both performed and sung really well by our leads. Alas however that is the only thing that this movie has on par with the original. Good soundtrack does not automatically equal good movie. If I want the soundtrack I’ll go out and buy it.
– There’s also stuff that is WAY too cartoony. Even for Blues Brothers such as the 130-year-old voodoo witch turning the Blues Brothers into zombies and the Nazis in the movie into rats, shaving cream monster Elwood staging an escape from a cop-filled diner with Mack and Buster, and literal ghost riders appearing in the sky during the Ghost Riders in the Sky song. You can argue that the original Blues Brothers had wacky things too such as all the car maneuvers, the Bluesmobile surviving almost the whole movie, pretending to be another band and it working with the real band only showing up after the place closed, and the fact that they don’t get caught till the end but you can argue that was more of divine intervention since the saving of the orphanage was a mission from God. This is reinforced more to the fact that when they reach the tax office at the end of the original movie the Bluesmobile finally collapses.
Blues Brothers 2000 is a sad retread of the original movie adding very little old or new quality to enjoy. It in no way needs to exist yet it does and it can clearly be said that the statues atop of Hollywood Blvd Theatre are not there because of this movie.
Bits and Quotes:
Isn’t it nice to know that the orphanage is revealed to have been gone in this movie? That everything Jake and Elwood went through in the last film all the damage they caused, the money they raised, the giant palace motel gig was for nothing?
Jake and Curtis died years before Elwood was released. And no one bothered to tell Elwood about it?
Honestly Buster wearing the Blues suit really takes away any dignity that the band may have had in the movie. Like why?
Apparently, the late John Belushi’s brother James Belushi was supposed to be in this movie in place of Buster but backed out due to another project. Honestly, when James backed out this should have been scrapped.
Elwood Blues: Seeing as we’re kind of like step-brothers, I thought maybe you could help me out.
Cab Chamberlain: How could I do that?
Elwood Blues: I need $500 for this car, see? And I thought maybe you could, you know, loan me the money… Or…
Cab Chamberlain: Or what?
Elwood Blues: I’m thinking of putting the band back together. Maybe you could join us.
Cab Chamberlain: I’m a commander in the Illinois State Police, and I enjoy my job. You waltz in here telling me I have a dead, white criminal brother, who was in a band which, the last time they played anywhere, were charged with
[looks to computer screen]
Cab Chamberlain: grand larceny, reckless endangerment,
[raises his voice getting louder]
Cab Chamberlain: felonious motor vehicle assault, over seven hundred violations of the highway traffic act and damages, both public and private, in excess of $24,000,000 and you are asking me if I want to join this band?!
Elwood Blues: [nonchalantly] I could show you all the moves.
Cab Chamberlain: Get the hell out of my office right now!
[stands up and opens his arms]
Elwood Blues: I think you need a hug.
Mother Mary Stigmata: Before Curtis came to us at St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud he had a musical group that toured the joints of the Mid-West. In one town Curtis had an affair…with a married woman.
Elwood Blues: Go Curtis!
[Mother Mary Stigmata hits him]
Elwood Blues: I mean…that’s terrible.
Mother Mary Stigmata: That’s what I thought you meant.