For all its self-indulgent, pseudo-anarchist humour, the cult '80s road movie The Blues Brothers was an old-fashioned affair that followed in the footsteps of 1932 flick The Big Broadcast. Both were variety shows with a thinly-constructed plotline, involving the saving of an institution: an orphanage in the first, a radio station in the second. Spookily enough, Cab Calloway's rendition of Minnie The Moocher was the highlight of both films, made 48 years apart. But while that song will always stay fresh, the same thing cannot be said for the formula.
A generation too late, or a century too early, The Blues Brothers foolishly springs its own tired sequel. And though it does supply a pretty good soundtrack, it's only mildly entertaining as a film. The opening scene does hold a promise that it might turn into a surrealistically stylised romp reminiscent of Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Elwood comes out of prison, black hat and glasses in place, and is left waiting by the roadside for 24 hours, before somebody remembers to tell him that his brother Jake died many years ago.
The first funny joke in the film turns out to be the last, as the sequel then cranks out The Blues Brothers road-trip blueprint to the letter - so the band reforms; they meet famous R&B stars; and Landis follows the memorable car demolition extravaganza of the first film with an even larger, but extremely yawnsome, duplicate chase.
The central joke in The Blues Brothers was that the brothers themselves were truly bad singers, yet still enthusiastic enough to persuade the greatest talents of R&B to perform with them. In the years that passed, Aykroyd has worked on his musical hobby, and can now pride himself as a blues singer of passable quality. Goodman too demonstrates a deep, booming voice, while Morton is actually a veteran of Broadway musicals. But whereas the patchy structure of the first film was somehow held together by the energetic "we're on a Mission From God" chemistry between Aykroyd and Belushi, this brand-new quartet of men in black is devoid of any.
The list of guest performers is just as impressive as before, including Eryka Badu, Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore, and veterans of the first outing - Aretha Franklin (who still demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T) and James Brown. But if Blues Brothers 2000 is worth seeing, it is for the final showdown between the Blues Brothers Band and a mysterious combo called The Louisiana Gator Boys, which turns out to be a supergroup, comprised of BB King, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Joshua Redman, Steve Winwood and other giants. And the suggestion that The Blues Brothers Band might actually win the Battle Of The Bands competition does give rise to a faint smile.
The late, great John Belushi is woefully missed here and it takes three actors (John Goodman, Joe Morton and J Evan Bonifant) to fill his shoes. Close your eyes while watching the movie and just listen. Or skip the film and buy the CD. Which is great.
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