"The Blues Brothers" is one of those movies that I wish to God I had written. When I first saw it in a theatre during it's original theatrical run I laughed so hard I nearly gave myself a hernia. And the concluding car chase is a classic. In fact, most of what happens in that movie is a classic.
I only wish that BLUES BROTHERS 2000 had been a worthy sequel to that movie. There's a whole lot in this movie I like but there's a whole lot that's wrong with it as well and the major thing is that there's no John Belushi. And The Blues Brothers without John Belushi is like' well; it's like Krazy Kat without Ignazt Mouse. It's like Mr. Peabody without Sherman. It's like' well; you get the point by now. BLUES BROTHERS 2000 would have been a worthy movie on it's own if it didn't have the shadow of John Belushi hanging over it. It's a movie with great music and great musical numbers but while I was watching it my mind couldn't help thinking how much better it could have been if John Belushi had been in the movie.
Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) is released from prison and he naturally waits outside for his brother Joliet Jake to pick him up the Bluesmobile. It fact, he waits two days and nights before the warden, (Frank Oz) finds out that nobody has told him that Jake is dead. I admire the way they handle the scene where the warden breaks the news to Elwood. It's done in a really touching way and we never hear what the warden says but the body language says it all. It'™s a really nice way to acknowledge John Belushi's contribution to The Blues Brothers and it's done with sensitivity. But a girl who works in a strip club where the drummer of their old band now owns picks up Elwood. Elwood hooks up with him and is given a job there where he meets the wonderfully named Mighty Mack McTeer (John Goodman). Mighty Mack proves that he can sing in a show stopping number ("I'm Lookin' For A Fox") and Elwood envisions putting the band back together.
After a bit of business where Elwood pisses off The Russian Mafia and they burn down the strip club, he sets off to reunite the band, accompanied by Mighty Mack and Buster, an orphan he has been assigned to mentor by Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman). The orphan quickly declares himself a Blues Brother and decides to live in the trunk of the new Bluesmobile and wears the black suit, hat and glasses required, as does Mighty Mack. Elwood travels around the country, reuniting the old Blues Brothers Band and picking up yet another new Blues Brothers (Joe Morton) who plays Cab Chamberlain, the illegitimate son of the character Cab Calloway played in the previous film. Elwood's rational is that since Cab Calloway's character was like a father to him and Jake that makes Cab their stepbrother. The problem is that Cab Chamberlain is a high-ranking Chicago police officer. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Elwood goes to ask Cab to join the band and Cab rattles off the $24 million dollars of property damage and numerous crimes The Blues Brothers committed when they performed their last concert.
Eventually Elwood reunites the band and Cab evens joins them in a scene that is a direct steal from the one in "The Blues Brothers" where they end up at a tent revival of the Reverend Cleophus James (James Brown) and Reverend Moore (Sam Moore) and Cab gets that The Blues Brothers are "On A Mission From God" and is transformed into a Blues Brother. They then go onto to Louisiana where they have to compete in an All-Star Battle Of The Bands. Now, The Blues Brothers are a kick ass band on their own, but let's face it, when they get to Ereykah Badu's voodoo temple located deep in the backwater swamps of Louisiana, they're definitely outclassed by the band they meet which is comprised of -- and hold your breath -- B.B. King, Gary U.S. Bonds, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Bo Diddly, Isaac Hayes, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Lou Rawls, KoKo Taylor, Travis Tritt, Grover Washington Jr. and Steve Winwood.
However, it all works out in the end and the movie ends in a satisfying manner with everybody having a good time and even though The Russian Mafia, The Catholic Church and The Detroit Police Department end up chasing the new team of The Blues Brothers comprised of Elwood, Buster, Mack and Cab, it's all good.
I didn't spend too much time on the plot of BLUES BROTHERS 2000 because there really isn't a plot. I get the feeling that John Landis and Dan Aykroyd did the movie because they were contracted to do a sequel and yeah, maybe they just wanted to do one. And I can see why. The movie isn't one that should be seen for a plot or a story. But we do get some really terrific musical numbers that easily match and in my opinion, surpass the ones of the first movie.
You can skip Aretha Franklin doing yet another version of "Respect" that was done better in the first movie but some of the other numbers are outstanding. Blues Traveler is in this movie and they do a terrific song. The version of "634-5789" done by The Blues Brothers, Wilson Pickett and Johnny Lang is an absolute showstopper. In fact, every musical number in BLUES BROTHERS 2000 is a showstopper. That's how good a musical it is. John Landis knows how to direct a musical and he shows it here. BLUES BROTHERS 2000 is worth seeing just for the musical numbers as they all make you wanna get up and dance. Especially the last twenty minutes of the movie which is nothing but wall-to-wall music. And whatever you do, do not turn off the movie after the closing credits. Why? Because you've got another seven or eight minutes of James Brown doing his classic "Please, Please, Don't Go" with John Goodman and Dan Ackroyd backing him up. I grew up seeing The "Please, Please Don't Go," number. This is the one where somebody will put a cape over James Brown and lead him off the stage. He would go the end of the end of the stage, scream, throw the cape off and go back into the number. In this movie, John Goodman does cape duty and he does it so well that you just know he used to watch the routine just as I did.
So should you see BLUES BROTHERS 2000? Watch it not for the story but for the extraordinary musical performances. As I've said earlier, John Landis knows how to direct musical sequences. And I love all of 'em in this movie. The story is minor. The music is major. I don'™t say this about many movies, but watch BLUES BROTHERS 2000 just for the music and the music performances. Everybody is obviously having a helluva time making this movie and they can all sing.
For more about John Belushi > An interview with Judy Belushi-Pisano