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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Blues Brothers 2000'

5 February 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Blues Brothers 2000" is a jam -- as in traffic jam, as in cram, as in thick and fruity. All bass and no lead lines, John Landis' sequel to the 1980 John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd hit is a boisterous performer with about as much soul and feeling as a demolition derby.

The only "respect" this noisy blast is likely to get is from teenage boys and the most growth-impaired of boomer males. Still, it's hard to lambaste an enterprise that is chock full of car crashes, Bo Diddley and slinky strippers. Given these excellencies, Universal should lay down some strong initial grosses before this fortissimo film fades on poor word-of-mouth and lands in the slag heap of underachieving vehicles.

For those who have never been to a giant-wheeler demolition or crazy-car extravaganza, "Blues Brothers 2000" is akin to that experience. Imagine the upcoming Motown special on TV and then intersperse it with car crashes and, essentially, you've got this micro-plot pileup. So underwritten is Aykroyd and Landis' story line that it makes one yearn for the well-crafted intricacies of such jobs as "Cannonball Run" and the "Smokey and the Bandit" series. These oldies look downright subtle and brainy compared with this recidivist wreckage.

Like a classic musical, "Blues Brothers 2000" is a bit thin on central story. Elwood Blues (Aykroyd) gets out of prison for his past transgressions (remember the massive car dives from the Marina Towers in Chicago?) and yearns to start up the band again. The show must go on, and all that. But times have changed -- Jake is dead and Elwood faces personal and professional obstacles, no dough and former band members who have lives and don't want to give them up for the road.

Elwood's opening quest to get the band going again, although maddeningly padded with stale Catholic-school jokes and other dull retreads, is the film's liveliest part. There's some juicy broad humor involving mafioso Russians, strippers and the musicians themselves. But "2000" soon tailspins into a square, waltz-like cadence once the band forms and they simply take to the road with the cops, the Russians and some paramilitary nuts all in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, this square and boxy road show is largely bereft of comic riffs or jazzy side solos.

The film's thin story refrain is eventually hammered into complete scrap metal by Landis' pile-it-high direction, capped off by a police-car pileup that seems set on setting some record for number of vehicles. On the comedy meter, however, it only proves that more is not much. Admittedly, Landis lands some solid slapstick, usually involving vehicles, but "2000"'s overall rhythm is slow, flat-footed and lethargic. Simply dumping in car crashes does not necessarily enliven the pacing.

In between the loose-limbed narrative, there's some great entertainment, most of it in the wailing performances of the all-star, R&B pantheon cast: Aretha belting out "Respect", B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Diddley and a blues galaxy of others jamming. In short, "Blues Brothers 2000" is a great concert intermittently interrupted by a movie.

This time out, Aykroyd's "brother" is played by John Goodman, who in his tight-fitting suit, little black hat and plastic sunglasses is, indeed, hilarious -- mainly as a sight gag. When shot in close, Goodman's profile with his full face and prominent nose and shades and tiny hat makes one think of Joe Camel. A tip of the little black hat to Aykroyd for his overall deadpan, droll performance as Elwood, while young J. Evan Bonifant brings some nifty footwork to the role of Blues boy.

Supporting performances are truly the film's visual highlights. Standouts include Erykah Badu as a regal voodoo woman and newcomer Shann Johnson, whose silken dance moves light up the screen. Paul Shaffer, as a New Orleans master of ceremonies weirdo, is a treat. At last, someone from the Letterman show shows some movie acting ability.

Technically, "Blues Brothers 2000" benefits from costume designer Deborah Nadoolman's bright and broadly stitched outfits as well as, of course, the rousing musical selections and solo performances by the stellar blues brigade.


Universal Pictures

Producers: John Landis,

Dan Aykroyd, Leslie Belzberg

Director: John Landis

Screenwriters: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis

Based on "The Blues Brothers" by: Dan Aykroyd and John Landis

Director of photograhy: David Herrington

Production designer: Bill Brodie

Editor: Dale Beldin

Associate producer: Grace Gilroy

Costume designer: Deborah Nadoolman

Music: Paul Shaffer

Choreograher: Barry Lather

Casting: Ross Clydesdale, Joanna Colbert

Supervising sound editor: Scott Hecker



Elwood Blues: Dan Aykroyd

Mighty Mack McTeer: John Goodman

Cabel Chamberlain: Joe Morton

Buster: J. Evan Bonifant

Mrs. Murphy: Aretha Franklin

The Rev. Cleophus James: James Brown

Malvern Gasperon: B.B. King

Mother Mary Stigmata: Kathleen Freeman

The Rev. Morris: Sam Moore

Mr. Pickett: Wilson Pickett

Warden: Frank Oz

Matara: Shann Johnson

Queen Mousette: Erykah Badu

Junior Wells: Junior Wells

Maury Sline: Steve Lawrence

Ed: Eddie Floyd

Custodian: Jonny Lang

Motel band: Blues Traveler

The Blues Brothers Band: Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Murphy Dunne, Willie "Too Big" Hall, "Blue Lou" Marini, Tom "Bones" Malone, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin

Running time -- 123 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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1 item from 1998

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