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Review: For 'Blues Brothers 2000,' less is not mojo

Scenes from February 13, 1998
Web posted at: 11:23 a.m. EST (1623 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- When the original "Blues Brothers" movie was released in 1980, it was one of the most expensive films ever made and the subject of a great deal of gossip about John Belushi's on-set behavior. The movie ended up being a lot less entertaining than the major event it was touted to be, and that should have been that.

In the ensuing years, however, "The Blues Brothers" has become one of those inexplicable cult video hits. Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's performances are somnambulant, there's no story momentum, and the project's unnecessary hugeness finally squashes its imaginative dance sequences. But a lot of people like it, probably for those very reasons.

Now we get "Blues Brothers 2000," and I have to give Aykroyd and director John Landis credit. It'd be amazing enough for them to convince a studio to let them make a sequel to the original without John Belushi in it, but they've circumvented this by filming a virtual remake of the first one and adding John Goodman.

So much for the often-cited but seldom-displayed Aykroyd- Belushi chemistry. The answer seems to be to just get a fat comedian who's willing to pretend that he can sing the blues. Goodman could act circles around Belushi (not that there's any evidence of it here). But you can't act with a talent you don't possess. So, just like the first time around, what we've ended up with is somnambulant performances, no plot momentum (or no plot at all), and two rich white guys pretending to be soulful. Only on a smaller scale.

This is a crass little movie, one that expects the audience to pony up for exactly the same thing they saw before, only less. The number of deja vu experiences is alarming, and I haven't even seen the first movie in eight or nine years. As The Shangri-Las used to say, "Does this sound familiar?"

Doesn't deserve respect

At the beginning of the film, we see Elwood Blues being released from Joliet Prison in Illinois. After being informed of his brother Jake's death, he gets a ride from the girlfriend of his band's drummer. This is fortunate because Elwood wants to re-form the band! First though, he needs to get his hands on a used cop car. That'll be the Blues Mobile. Then he has to visit the vicious nun who raised him and his brother.

Then he starts gathering the band together, all of whom have other jobs and really don't want to get it going again. One of them is married to Aretha Franklin, who's against his taking to the road again and tells him so, in a sassy soul song ("Respect" this time around).

Clips from "Blues Brothers 2000"
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Partial trailer:
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Small frame: 1.5MB/38 sec. QuickTime Movie

The band finally regroups, but not before drawing the ire of the police and a white supremacist group. There are lots of musical interludes -- one of which has them pretending to be a bluegrass band -- and chase scenes in which cars defy the laws of gravity and tumble through the air at the slightest bump.

Stick to the original

Are Aykroyd and Landis, who co-wrote the script, really this devoid of new ideas, or are they just plain lazy?

I know sequels have to contain knowing gestures toward the original film, but come on. Just go out and rent the first one, if this is the kind of thing you're looking for.

Landis, to his credit, still knows how to shoot energetic, amusing dance sequences, but commercially calculated moves like inventing a Blues Child (played by J. Evan Bonifant) to grab the interest of kids who may not even know who Ackroyd is erases any goodwill the dances might generate.

I wasn't even expecting much and I feel robbed.

"Blues Brothers 2000" contains cartoonish violence and a smattering of bad language. The band, consisting of such soul legends as Duck Dunn, Matt Murphy and Steve Cropper, is as good as they come. It's a shame, after all these years, that they have to do something like this for anyone to notice. PG-13. 105 minutes.

 
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