Elwood (repeated line): “The lord works in mysterious ways.”
Beware: Spoilers may follow
Yes the lord does work in mysterious ways doesn’t he? To the point that it’s so mysterious as to why this film exists in the first place (seriously did anyone really demand this to be made). Blues Brothers 2000 set 18 years after the first movie is pretty much the same as the original Blues Brothers movie…without the enjoyment. It has very little new things to offer, what is new doesn’t work, and only has half the original cast. Even those who did return at this point seemed old, tired, and just overall unfocused.
18 years after the events of the first movie Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) is released from prison only to learn that his brother Jake (John Belushi) has died. He visits Sister Mary Stigmata now Mother Mary Sigmata (Kathleen Freeman) who is now working at a hospital only to find out that his adopted father Curtis (Cab Calloway) has also died and the orphanage has closed down. He finds out that Curtis had an illegitimate son who had no idea that Curtis was his father named Cabel Chamberlain (Joe Morton). With the help of a kid he is given to mentor named Buster (J. Evan Bonifant) and a bartender Mighty Mack McTeer (John Goodman) Elwood sets out to reunite the band once again.
The first problem with this movie is that there is NO reason to put the band back together whatsoever. The reason for putting it back together in the original was so that they could raise money to save the orphanage. That’s what motivates the heroes to leave their jobs and do the right thing. It was the brothers’ way of gaining redemption. It’s clear that in the original when they recruit the first five band members they admit that they can never be as good as they were when they were in the Blues Brothers. However here everyone seems to have stable jobs and healthy relationships especially considering that they, like Elwood, did time so why would any of them leave that behind and risk getting in trouble again? There is nothing to chase or nothing to fight for. There is no reason for them to join the band. Elwood apparently just decided to do it.
Another one of the movie’s biggest slaps in the face to its predecessor is the closing of the orphanage. Not only does it in no way advance the plot but it also makes everything Jake and Elwood went through including all the car chases, all the damage they caused, their giant Palace Motel gig seem like it was all for nothing.
Elwood is really unlikable in this movie. He barely mourns over the deaths of Jake and Curtis and given the bond he shared and we felt with both of them in the last movie it’s difficult for us to feel for what little mourning there is. And the fact that that he replaces them with Buster and Mack almost immediately is completely out of character. He also takes away all the band members from their successful jobs to reunite the band for no apparent reason.
Buster is practically wasted in this movie. Adding a little kid to a successful movie saga rarely works and this is no exception. He has maybe one or two scenes where he helps Elwood. Sure he plays in the band and even wears the suit but aside from that he doesn’t do anything. He barely says anything let alone as much as look at Elwood in the eye. There’s very little focus on him nor does he have any character traits whatsoever. The idea was that Elwood was supposed to mentor him but there are little to no scenes where Elwood and the kid actually get along or Elwood teaching the kid anything. The only real purpose he serves is for more cops to chase Elwood and the band as the nun thinks Elwood kidnapped him.
John Goodman as Mighty Mack brings very little to the film overall. There is no feeling of genuine connection between him and Aykroyd. They barely have any conversation nor is there any establishing of a character relationship between them. Which is a shame because John Goodman can do good work and yet he falls flat. Him and Aykroyd have made several appearances in the band years before this movie following Belushi’s passing. His dialogue is downright forgettable as he stands and when compared to Belushi as Jake. You could cut him out and the film would be just fine.
Joe Morton as Cab Chamberlain is by far the most interesting. Elwood is barely fazed by the deaths of Jake and Curtis as well as the orphanage closing down. His mourning over it is done within a two-minute scene when it should be over the first half of the movie and it never is mentioned again. Within minutes of the film he replaces them with Buster and Mack acting as if nothing had happened. Yet he’s overjoyed when he learns of Cab. Honestly the film should have been about Cab discovering his heritage. He’s the one with a story. He’s a brother to Elwood and is completely against joining the band when they first meet. He’s the one that has a potential story arc (which is really ruined by his “seeing of the light”). The fact that he’s a cop really works in contrast to Elwood being a former criminal.
In the last movie the band members having little character to them and mixed acting chops worked to the movie’s advantage in that they felt like good friends with the Blues Brothers and were just given a bunch of money to make a movie together. Here however there’s not that same sense of connection between them and Elwood and they feel a lot slower and unfocused. This is primarily again due to the fact that they have no idea why they’re in the band again.
The movie itself doesn’t even end it just stops at a certain point. As Elwood and Buster are driving away with the police in pursuit, it seems that we’re going to get an awesome car chase. Elwood tells Buster to put on his seatbelt and the movie ends.
If there’s anything good about this movie though it’s that the soundtrack is actually really good. Some of the songs John the Revelator, Ghost Riders in the Sky, 6345789, Looking for a fox, Respect, and Down in New Orleans, and others are both performed and sung really well by our leads. Alas however that is the only thing that this movie has on par with the original. Good soundtrack does not automatically equal good movie. If I want the soundtrack I’ll go out and buy it.
There’s also stuff that is WAY too Cartoony even for Blues Brothers such as the 130-year-old voodoo witch turning the Blues Brothers into zombies and the Nazis in the movie into rats, shaving cream monster Elwood staging an escape from a cop-filled diner with Mack and Buster, the Bluesmobile being able to drive underwater, and literal ghost riders appearing in the sky during the Ghost Riders in the Sky song. You can argue that the original Blues Brothers had wacky things too such as all the car maneuvers, the Bluesmobile surviving almost the whole movie, pretending to be another band and it working with the real band only showing up after the place closed, and the fact that they don’t get caught till the end but you can argue that was more of divine intervention since the saving of the orphanage was a mission from God. This is reinforced more to the fact that when they reach the tax office at the end of the original movie the Bluesmobile finally collapses.
Blues Brothers 2000 is a sad retread of the original movie adding very little old or new quality to enjoy. It in no way needs to exist yet it does and it can clearly be said that the statues in Chicago of the Blues Brothers do not exist because of this movie.