Volume 91, Issue 75
Wednesday, February 11, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Leaving the blues behind
By Sara Falconer
Almost two decades ago, the Lord told Elwood and Jake Blues to put on a concert with their band at all costs. The result was a grand adventure full of cool music and even cooler moves that became one of the most beloved comedies ever. Now, for some mysterious reason, in the sequel Blues Brothers 2000, the Lord wants the band to reunite and have a pretty pathetic adventure full of mediocre music and clumsy moves.
Eighteen years after the end of the first movie, Elwood J. Blues (Dan Akroyd) is released from prison only to learn that his brother and his next closest family member, Curtis, have died however, Curtis had a son. Elwood is eager to meet his new brother, Cabel (Joe Morton), who is commander of the Illinois police and is less than thrilled to learn of his mother's affair and his criminal siblings. As he throws Elwood out, he loses his wallet to Buster (Evan Bonifant), an orphan and a new Blues Brothers' associate.
Elwood buys the trademark-used police car and his latest quest, reuniting the band, begins. "The Lord works in mysterious ways," he declares, dragging the reluctant members from law-abiding lives to go on the road again. Along the way he finds a new lead singer, "Mighty" Mac McTier (John Goodman). The long arm of the law finally catches them at a tent revival, but the Reverend James Brown intervenes and "heals" Cabel, who flies through the roof and returns in the official Blues Brothers suit to answer the call of his blood.
The Brothers' final destination is a battle of the bands in New Orleans, hosted by a 130-year-old voodoo queen (Erykah Badu). "The Lord works in mysterious ways," Elwood repeats as they enter the creepy plantation, complete with alligators, skeletons and Paul Schaffer in a huge white wig.
The competition is the Louisiana Gator Boys, a group comprised of about 25 major blues artists, including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Travis Tritt and Jimmy Vaughn.
These last scenes are actually the only redeeming feature of the movie. It's hard to go wrong with a multitude of such talented legends in the same room. The numbers done by the Gator Boys and the Blues Brothers, especially the joint jam session finale, are almost worth sitting through the rest of the story.
However, most of the music, which was written by Paul Schaffer, is completely uninspired. Akroyd and Goodman manage to pump some life into their duets, such as "I'm Lookin' for a Fox," one of the few catchy songs. The other musical performances, with appearances by Aretha Franklin and Blues Traveller, as well as some lesser-known artists, range from boring to painful.
There is very little variation from the original film's plot and director John Landis relies heavily on pale reproductions of the now-clichéd moments that made Blues Brothers so popular. The continuous car chases and escapes are increasingly tiresome and are made even more so by the absurd presence of an angry Russian gang and a nutty militia group. As a comedy, Blues Brothers 2000 is a failure. While there are arguably good points in it musically, it is far from funny.
Above all, the most disappointing aspect of Blues Brothers 2000 is the characters. They just don't have what it takes anymore to make a Blues Brothers movie the way it should be. The band lacks personality and that annoying Buster uses up his cuteness appeal within the first few scenes.
Akroyd and Goodman go through the motions of coolness without really seeming to feel it. That intangible, but crucial groove is missing from their movements, dialogue and especially dancing.
If you loved the first Blues Brothers movie enough to be interested in its sequel, you would be much happier saving your money and renting the 1980 classic.
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