There's a very long section of the movie that takes place in a strip club, so of course it is PG-13. (Admittedly, this seemed pretty tame, but it is in there for a really long time.)
DIRECTOR: John Landis
I have so many clever hooks to this one I don't know where to start with. 1) It felt really spiteful writing the title Blues Brothers 2000 and following it up with the year (1998) right after it. I don't mean to throw mud this early. 2) IMDB and the credits list the part of the little boy named Buster as "J. Evan Bonifant". I know it is a lie. That little boy was played by Scarlett Johansson. Sure, there's no evidence on the internet to substantiate what I'm saying. Doesn't mean my gut lies. 3) One of the first movies I ever reviewed was Blues Brothers 2000. I was editor of our high school newspaper and I loved The Blues Brothers. I couldn't wait to see this movie and I wasn't going to let anyone tell me that this movie wasn't going to be great. I owned the soundtrack and I probably watched this movie a dozen times. I often tell my students that I hate the high school version of me. (Oh geez, I'm now Bruce Willis in The Kid.)
After rewatching The Blues Brothers and loving it as much as I did, I thought the same magic could be repeated with the (near) universally panned Blues Brothers 2000. I mean, I loved this movie. I was convinced it was nearly as good as the original. I am so ashamed of old me for this thinking this movie had any merit. This movie is so cringy bad and I don't want to be the guy who adds yet more criticism to older Dan Akyroyd than he's already received. Old Dan Akyroyd is not the neurotic mess of his youth. His younger neurotic mess is adorable and kind of works for him. Old Dan Aykroyd is so deep with his own franchises that he has completely lost the forest through the trees. Listen to him talk about Ghostbusters. He just doesn't have that youthful sardonic attitude. He lost the fact that the movie is fundamentally a comedy with a solid science fiction structure to it. Rather, he is all about the science fiction element then going back to add jokes. The same logical flaw happens with the Blues Brothers sequel. He misses the point of what made the first one so great. Yeah, it is unfair to say that Belushi carries the first movie, but what I can say is that the dynamic between the two brothers is what sells the movie. Aykroyd is Silent Bob. He works so well as Silent Bob. (Okay, Stan Laurel.) It is in the rare moments that Elwood speaks that sell the movie. Instead, Landis and Aykroyd elected to combine the personalities of both Jake and Elwood into the same character. Watching the first movie, Elwood is the one who really doesn't understand Jake's mission from God. He goes along with it because that is his character. However, the motivation to drive this story doesn't really mesh with Elwood. The result is that this feels like a show that you'd see at Universal Studios where an employee is doing an Elwood impression. It is very sad.
Commenting on the lack of magic just seems sad in terms of writing a review. But this movie lacks all magic. Perhaps some of the most awkward moments in the first film involve the ridiculous physics jokes. But the movie earns enough good will that these moments come across as playful and slapsticky. 2000 tries the same absurdity, but with such a self-awareness that I actually felt uncomfortable. There's a moment where the new Bluesmobile (why a cop car? Because it is iconic!) just does a dozen donuts (I get it!) in a parking lot, spinning on its center. The scene lasts so long that I almost considered skipping the scene. It was cringe worthy. The insanity of the movie kept trying to get back that old feeling, but it felt like a fan film versus something that honestly belonged in the movie. And that's what is true about most of the movie. Looking at the musical numbers, the scenes are thrown in there for good measure as opposed to being truly great moments. I have to compare (which I just noticed I'm doing far too often) the original Aretha sequence ("Freedom") to 2000 ("R-E-S-P-E-C-T"). The brothers are sitting at the counter eating their four fried chickens and a coke / dry white toast and letting the number pass. When they do get involved, they go into it with a flat affect. It is their job and they have to dance. It is a weird sense of responsibility and they complete it. Elwood is more than pleased to have a very poorly executed dance number with Mack and Buster. It feels like the choreographer was in a high school production of the show and needed everyone to be smiling for their parents. This, oddly enough, was around the time of The Phantom Menace and it has many of the same problems. The dirtiness of the movie is gone and the movie is so pretty that it looks unloved. I know that sound flippant, but it is kind of true.
I cannot help but comment on the most cringeworthy moment. It wasn't the donuts. The donuts were tame. I have to say it is the zombie Caribbean number with Erykah Badu. I love Erykah Badu. This? This was a travesty. At one point, magic becomes a plot point and that's when I have to just say "I quit." It is so missing the heart of the story. It felt like a cartoon by this point. This isn't about two crass guys putting together a band while on the run for the law. The cops were silly for chasing them and it led to a swamp. I guess what I'm saying is that the movie suffers really bad from a case of trying too hard. I like the fact that Landis and Akyroyd used to be hungry and they had this passion project that screamed independent filmmaker. 2000 was a movie that was made after both filmmakers were trying to recapture the past but just cheapened it. It's why I don't want to see Ferris Bueller's Day Off 2020. (This isn't a thing as far as I understand.) The entire movie would be about trying to recapture that joy versus creating something new. There is nothing confident about recapturing the past. The Blues Brothers could possibly exist without John Belushi, but it has to be something new and Blues Brothers 2000 completely sullies the memory of something that was truly epic.
I'm sure I have a copy of my original review somewhere. I'm curious to see how glowing that review might have been. Perhaps that little kid would hate me as much as I hate him. But this movie is genuine garbage and I can't believe I'm listening to the soundtrack while I write this.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.