Blues Brothers 2000

Blues Brothers 2000 (1997)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman
Extras: Documentary, Trailers, Photo Gallery

I have heard many people speak disparagingly about "Blues Brothers 2000", claiming that it’s impossible to re-create a cult, impossible to replace an outstanding comedian like John Belushi. I heard many disappointed comments regarding this sequel after all, the original was one of the ultimate cult films in Hollywood history so I was somewhat wary when I put this disc from Universal in the player to check out the film for myself.

I liked it. I must admit that I was never a fanatic about the original "Blues Brothers" film to start with, though I felt it was a very good, exceedingly entertaining, funny movie. The fever never got me, though, and maybe that was the reason why I missed the original theatrical release of "Blues Brothers 2000", and why, now that it’s on DVD, I enjoyed it more than many die-hard fans, who might have had expectations that were impossible to meet.

Eighteen years have passed since the Blues Brothers finished their mission from God. Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) is finally released from prison and stands in front of the gates for a whole day waiting for his brother Jake to pick him up. On the next morning, the prison director (Frank Oz) tells him that Jake has passed away. Soon Elwood discovers that much has changed in those eighteen years, and he has to start his life as a new man. Elwood visits the orphanage he and Jake grew up in, and immediately the good Mother Mary imposes another mission on him: Take care of 10-year old Buster (J. Evan Bonifant), a wayward orphan, and set him on the path to redemption. Elwood has other plans and little use for Buster at first. He wants to put the band back together, and in order to buy a new Bluesmobile, he needs to raise some money. Elwood has learned about a half-brother earned by his mother’s extramarital sidestep, and pays him a visit. Oddly, this brother (Joe Morton) is a commander of the Illinois State Police. When he refuses to lend money to Elwood and literally throws him out of the office, Buster shows one of his many talents and steals the cop’s wallet. With Buster as a new partner, Elwood pays visits to all the members of his old band, reassembling them for a tour. He even finds a replacement for his lost brother Jake as the lead singer in the bartender Mighty Mack (John Goodman). With the whole Illinois police force hot on their tails, the band makes their way south to Louisiana to play at Voodoo Queen Mousette’s (Erykah Badu) fabulous Blues competition for their grand comeback. It’s a long way to the swampy Bayou’s of Louisiana and they go through a huge number of tribulations on their journey.

Let’s face it: When you watch "Blues Brothers 2000" you don’t expect Shakespearean performances or a classic, Oscar-worthy drama. The Blues Brothers stands for fun, entertainment, and most of all, cool music. It is a colorful celebration of blues music and I think "Blues Brothers 2000" captures this spirit almost better than the original. It is a pure musical, a showcase for the vast number of music legends who appear in the film. The movie is spiced up with some dry humor, familiar faces, the Bluesmobile, and police chases. It might not be as subversive as the original, it might not be as funny as the original, but it is just as entertaining, and to me, that’s what counts, especially in a film that never intended to take itself seriously.

One of the nice things about "Blues Brothers 2000" is that the time in the story has progressed for 18 years; it does not attempt to pretend that nothing has happened in that time. With the huge number of recurring characters and actors, it gives the film a unique intimacy and believability, because all of them have aged as well. It also helps in establishing a certain nostalgia, remembering scenes from the first film while watching the sequel. Director John Landis masterfully plays with these feelings when he introduces characters in ways familiar from the first film, which he directed as well. It also introduces a number of elements which take the film successfully in the late 90’s. The fact that Elwood has to accustom himself with this new world he’s getting into makes this clash even more obvious, although I am not sure if he himself ever realizes it. Dancing, singing, and blues-harping like a pro, Buster is a nice addition to the mixed bag of brothers although it seems the part was written with Macauley Caulkin in mind. The boy takes the brothers out of their serious rut and throws a number of fresh breezes in the mix.

"Blues Brothers 2000" comes as a Collector’s Edition disc from Universal Home Video, and features the signature quality we have come to expect from this publishers. The <$RSDL,dual layer> disc’s <$16x9,anamorphic> transfer is flawless, with a sharp image that holds an immense amount of detail and vibrant colors. The disc restores the film’s original 1.85:1 theatrical <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio and there are no artifacts, noise, or color bleeding to be found. This becomes especially obvious in the film’s numerous dance numbers, which are splendidly arranged with colorful costumes and set designs and tastefully lit.

Like the original "Blues Brothers" film, this sequel lines up a huge array of music legends for its spectacular soundtrack. Aretha Franklin bellows out "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." like there is no tomorrow in her recurring role as Matt "Guitar" Murphy’s wife. A number of the familiar faces from the first film are back with the Blues and as in the previous film, you can easily start a contest spotting stars throughout this movie. The list reads like a "Who’s Who" in blues, rhythm & blues, and soul, including legends such as James Brown, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, Taj Mahal, Bo Diddley, Blues Traveler, or Steve Winwood, to name just a few. Unfortunately in the film’s final jam session with all these people, I get this strange feeling that the blues is totally misrepresented here. All these white boys playing the blues doesn’t feel right even more so as the only prolific and inventive white bluesman, Robben Ford, is completely missing from the line-up. Blues, rhythm & blues, and soul are the heritage of black people and as such, should be celebrated and represented mostly by them. I think the film makes a serious mistake in not pulling all the stops and presenting us with the true greats of this inspired music. Where are Buddy Guy or John Lee Hooker? Where’s Robert Cray?

The film’s music is probably the most memorable element of the movie and it is has found its way onto this disc as a dynamic and rich <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack. The DVD contains language tracks in English and French, includes Spanish subtitles, and is <$CC,closed captioned> in English. The disc also contains a 25-minute featurette on the making of the movie, featuring interviews with director John Landis, Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, members of the Blues Brothers Band, and many others. It also includes the theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, and much more, although the supplements are a little sparse compared to some of Universal’s other Collector’s Edition.

"Blues Brothers 2000" is a fun movie to watch. It combines a light comedy with superb music and what is probably the biggest car crash of film history. Don’t expect a rehash of the original film. It is not, and Dan Aykroyd has done well to take a new direction with this sequel. The film crackles with energy and it will make your feet and fingers tap to the rhythm of the superb soundtrack and the film’s new songs. It is much more in the line of a true musical than the first one and contains less of the dry, off-the wall humor, too. If you can face that the "Blues Brothers" cult of the original cannot be topped or re-created, and if you can accept that the character of Elwood Blues changed in the past 18 years, I am sure you will enjoy this film as much as I did, and turn on the good vibes.

Don’t turn off the player too soon, mind you, or you will miss one of the film’s jewels: James Brown’s stunning interpretation of "Please, please, please" is waiting for you, just after the end credits.