How do you make a sequel almost 20 years, later to an absolute classic? How do you do it when one half of your key duo is dead? I don’t know the answers to those questions, and after watching Blues Brothers 2000, it’s clear that Dan Aykroyd and John Landis didn’t know either.
The movie opens with a Blues Brother getting out of prison, there’s an ex-police car involved, and a visit the no-bullshit nun who raised him. This is the start of Blues Brothers 2000. It’s almost exactly the same as the opening to the original Blues Brothers. The only difference, this time it’s Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) getting out of jail, not Jake. It’s not Jake, because Jake is dead. There’s a quick stretching of a very long bow to team up the remaining brother a precocious little shit of a kid named Buster (J Evan Bonifant) and a Jake Blues analogue named Mighty Mack McTeer, played by John Goodman.
From here, it’s a beat by beat retelling of the original story with vastly diminishing returns. Elwood decides to get the band back together, tracking them down one by one, through a series of adventures and musical cameos from people like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, BB King. Bob Diddley, Eric Clapton, Paul Schaffer, Isaac Hayes and Wilson Pickett.
The original has white power Nazis, the sequel has white power red necks. The original has Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy abandoning his wife and their diner, the sequel has Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy abandoning his wife and their car dealership. The original has John Candy’s tenacious cop who won’t stop in his pursuit of the band, the sequel as Joe Morton, a tenacious cop who won’t stop in his pursuit of the band. The original has the mix up at Bob’s Country Bunker where they have to pretend to be a county band, the sequel has a mix up at a county fair where then need to pretend to be a bluegrass ba… Well, I think you get the point.
I guess what I’m saying is, if the only problem you had with the original was that it was little bit too good, and you’re looking for a watered down, cheap, lazy imitation, the sequel is just what you’re after.
It’s amazing that Aykroyd could invent this character, make a movie using this character that has become a classic, then seemingly have no idea who this character is when it came time to write and act in the sequel. In the first movie, Jake and Elwood’s dialogue was generally kept monosyllabic and deadpan, especially Elwood, who only came alive when on stage. In Blues Brothers 2000, he’s spouting monologues every second scene and doing them in a crazy, over the top Chicago accent that the Aykroyd of the 80s would have made fun of.
John Goodman’s a great actor, he’s often an hilarious actor. He’s a better than decent singer. But when it comes to playing a Blues Brother, he’s just not John Belushi. Belushi could move in a way his size would never let on, he had an energy and attitude to him that Goodman just doesn’t deliver.
I love Dan Aykroyd. He did enough awesome things for comedy in the 70s and 80s that I don’t care how many shit bombs he’s connected to, I’ll always consider him a legend. But sometimes he thinks a little too big for his own good and needs a collaborator to reign him in. There is a story about his first draft of the Ghostbusters screenplay in which Mr Stay Puft appears in the first act and the rest of the movie gets even crazier from there. The first Blues Brothers had a subplot cut out about the car having magical powers. Some of it is in the DVD version I have of the movie and it’s so out of place. So while people like Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and John Belushi helped counter his worst instincts in those classic, it appears there was no on the set of Blues Brothers 2000 to ever say, “Hey Danny, do you really think we need some voodoo zombies in this thing?”
At least some of the songs and car stunts are good.