You don’t need a Phd in ‘geek’ or be into music to know that The Blues Brothers was a great movie. It had great tunes, John Belushi and Carrie Fisher firing a rocket launcher – three essential ingredients for a memorable night in. Blues Brothers is a film everyone loves and it has one of the biggest selling soundtracks of all time. Fact.
It has also given men the world over a cheap way out of fancy dress parties – all you need is your work suit, sunglasses and a pork pie hat – and for that we are all eternally grateful, amen. So what went wrong with The Blues Brothers 2000? The sequel which did not even have the grace to come out in the year 2000 and instead limped onto cinema screens in 1998.
On paper, this was a film which could not fail. You had the original director, John Landis, who has given the world plenty of decent films and the surviving cast members, including Dan Ackroyd, Frank Oz and the band themselves.
With John Belushi now singing in that great blues club in the sky, they had to look for someone else to fill his shoes. Initially, his brother, James Belushi, was approached, but was unable to do the film because of other commitments. James Belushi would have been a good fit and has performed with the Blues Brothers band on numerous occasions.
So they went for Roseanne star John Goodman, who starred as Mighty Mack McTeer. Goodman is something of a blues-buff and actually does a great job on ‘Looking For A Fox’ (originally a hit for Clarence Carter, back in 1968, fact fans!).
The sorry mess of a movie which followed is not Goodman’s fault.
And nor is it the fault of Joe Morton, who also joined the cast as Cab Chamberlain. The actor, who later appears in Smallville and Eureka, can do no wrong. It wasn’t his fault either.Nor was it the fault of the musicians who appeared. The Blues Brothers 2000 cast list achieves that rare feat of beating the original – BB King, Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Winwood, James Brown, Sam Moore, Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett. I could go on, but it’s a blues fan’s dream to see all these people up on the screen.
These guys are what the blues are all about and it only becomes watchable when the singers do their thing. The final section, when the all-star Louisiana Gator Boys and the Blues Brothers band romp through ‘New Orleans’ (originally a hit for Gary US Bonds, who is one of the singers in the Gator Boys), is one of the film’s saving graces. Likewise, if you want to hear a great song sung by two amazing singers, then Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett belting out ‘634-5789’ is essential viewing.
But the whole film was doomed from the start because someone thought what the movie really needed was a little kid.
Had none of the producers ever seen Adric or Wesley Crusher in action? Did nobody tell them that young kids, particularly boys, spell complete and utter disaster? Suddenly, the edgy black comedy of the original movie was transformed into a family-friendly slice of entertainment, which was ready to be served up on a Sunday afternoon on Five.
College students used to hold ‘frat’ parties and watch Blues Brothers late into the night. I’m just guessing, but I don’t think Blues Brothers 2000 ever made it down to the local student union bar for a 2am viewing. While the original film had John Belushi at the height of his talent, Blues Brothers 2000 just feels like a sanitised retread – although the music still rocks. Someone pass me my pork pie hat!