Monday, March 31, 2014

2000: A Blues Odyssey

Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) is another one of those movies that I didn't realize I'd already seen until about halfway through. I knew that I had seen some of the scenes, maybe gotten a detailed synopsis, but it wasn't until the big car crash scene that I was sure it wasn't deja vu.

In some ways, this is a very different movie from Blues Brothers. Jake Blues (John Belushi) is dead, and so is Curtis Blues (Cab Calloway), their father figure. The orphanage is closed. But Elwood (Dan Aykroyd), just out of prison, is still looking to put the band back together. In place of Belushi, he has mild-mannered bartender John Goodman, orphan kid J. Evan Bonifant, and Joe Morton as the State Police captain who is Cab's illegitimate son.

That plot stuff is not the best part of this movie, although it is not as bad as you might expect. The best part is the music. I don't want to get encyclopedic, but Wilson Pickett sings "634-5789" and Aretha sings "Respect". Sam Moore and James Brown preach the gospel. The Blues Brothers Band still includes Matt Murphy, Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper, Blue Lou and Mr. Fabulous. And many, many more.

Yes, you miss Belushi, but I can ignore that. And the movie does manage to one-up a few of the scenes from the first one. But the way they do it... Example, the car crash scene I mentioned before. You remember how many Illinois State Patrol cars were wrecked in the first movie? This one does more, but does it by just firing car after car into a pile. It's pretty funny - every time you think they're done, they toss another 5-10 on the pile. So the over-the-topness is the joke. But it also uses up all of the mayhem in a single scene.

The finale has a similar issue. It's a battle of the bands between the Blues Brothers and -SPOILER- pretty much everybody in music. It's a band made up of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Dr. John, Koko Taylor, Steve Winwood, Jimmy Vaughan, Clarence Clemons, and about 50 others. It's great, amazing, but I wish they could have spread it out over a few more numbers.

Also, the kid, J. Evan Bonifant was a pretty good dancer. But John Goodman can't sing the blues even as well as Aykroyd, who just gets by on chutzpah.

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