January 1, 2019

Blues Brothers 2000

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Happy New Year, everybody!

And what better way to kick off 2019 than with a look at the sequel to the film they covered in their fifth episode ever? To save you the time of scrolling back, we'll just tell you what it was: 1980's The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and a ton of Blues and R&B legends.

This time, however, Belushi couldn't make it, what with being dead and all. So for the sequel,  1998's Blues Brothers 2000, Aykroyd is joined by John Goodman, Joe Morton, and J. Evan Bonifant to take on the Blues moniker and accompany him on an almost carbon copy adventure of the first film,but with all the stuff that made it watchable missing.

Elwood Blues (Aykroyd) is released from prison, eighteen years after the events of the last film. In that time, his brother Jake (the late, great Belushi) passed away, as has Curtis (the late, great Cab Calloway), who raised the two of them in the orphanage they grew up in, instilling in them a love of the Blues. However, nobody bothered to tell Elwood about Jake, who you would imagine might have heard at least a rumor, being that he and his brother were in the same prison. Instead, he is left to wait outside the prison for a whole day before the warden (the right-on-time and always great Frank Oz) tells him what happened. Our criminal justice system at work, folks.

Not long after, a young woman arrives and picks Elwood up. Without a word, he gets in the car and is taken to downtown Chicago, where he first sees an old police car he wants to buy, and then goes to visit Mother Mary Stigmata (the late, great Kathleen Freeman), who was but a lowly nun when we last saw her at the orphanage eighteen years ago.

18 years later, Matt "Guitar"Murphy still looks like he doesn't know how to stand.
The sister offers condolences to Elwood on the loss of Jake and tells him about Curtis, and before giving him a chance to properly grieve, she saddles him with the knowledge that Curtis had a son (the great, but thankfully not-yet-late Morton) with a married woman before turning to the church, giving Elwood the idea that he has a "brother" out there somewhere, and then she gives him a young boy named Buster (the adequate, but not-even-a-little-late Bonifant), whom she expects Elwood -- a recently paroled felon -- to mentor. Elwood is not keen on the idea, but after a solid whipping from Mother Mary's retractable rod, he relents, promising to take Buster to the library.

Elwood does take Buster to the library, but leaves him there and heads to the Illinois State police headquarters, where Cab, his newfound "brother", is supposed to be. When he gets there, he discovers that Cab is, in fact, a police commander. Undeterred, Elwood introduces himself, explains Cab's history to him, and then asks to borrow five hundred dollars to buy the used police cruiser he saw earlier. Not especially thrilled at the revelations Elwood has delivered to him, Cab has Elwood ejected from the building. As he watches, Buster accidentally runs into him, lifting Cab's wallet, from which Elwood takes five hundred dollars (because don't all cops carry large sums of cash on them?) and returns the wallet. Time to get a car!

A quick trip to see Melvern Gasperon (the late, great B.B. King) results in new wheels, and then Elwood and Buster are off to see Willie (Blues Brothers Band drummer Willie Hall), who now runs a "stripster"(?) club, about getting the band back together. Willie isn't interested, but he introduces Elwood to the bartender, Mack (the not-at-all-late but still pretty great John Goodman), and gives Elwood a job as an emcee for the club.

A Belushi was needed. A King Ralph was acquired.
When Russian gangsters show up to shake down the bar for money, Elwood gets them drunk and recruits Mack to help him strip the gangsters down and leave them tied up in an alleyway as a warning. This backfires, and the Russians come to the club and burn it to the ground. When they see Elwood, Mack, and the others escape, the Russians give chase, but they are thwarted by what appear to be explosive drywall nails. One of the Russians is killed, and nopbody says a damn thing about it.

Having begun his reign of death and destruction, while simultaneously drawing his newfound friends and former drummer into his web of terror, Elwood starts to round up the rest of the band in a similarly horrific fashion. Really, the only ones who didn't suffer any kind of loss were Matt (the late, great Matt "Guitar" Murphy), Lou (the currently alive, but also great "Blue Lou" Marini), and Murph (the not-late, and really one of the only ones in the band who can act Murphy Dunne). The rest are swept up in Elwood's rampage of terror and forced to play blues standards and stiltedly deliver their lines.

Okay, Lou Marini did suffer a little.
A quick visit to Maury Sline (Steve Lawrence), agent to the stars, sets the band up to play at a battle fo the bands hosted by a Louisiana voodoo queen called Queen Mousette (Erykah Badu). He also promises to set up some "gas money gigs" along the way. These gigs turn out to be just one, which involves playing bluegrass music behind a monster truck show at the Tennessee State Fair.

Off and running, they stop at a few familiar-ish places to interact with people from the first movie. (The ones that are still alive, that is.) The whole time, they are being followed by Cab and his lieutenant, Lt. Elizondo (Nia Peeples), and several hundred other police officers from various states and counties. Oh, and the Russians are still looking for them. As are a group of white supremacist militiamen led by Darrell Hammond, who gets a boat full of explosives dropped on him but turns out to be fine.

When the band reaches the state fair, they discover that they are supposed to play bluegrass, and immediately don fake beards and hillbilly hats before diving into a rendition of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" that the people at the fair will most likely never forget, what with the actual ghostly skeletal horses and steer running across the sky as the band plays. Nobody comments on this at all. It's almost like it never happened. Weird.

We didn't see a thing. And neither did anybody else.
Almost to the gig at Queen Mousette's, the band's one vehicle runs out of gas, and a defeated Elwood tells the band that they might as well give up. Buster, in his "Oscar Speech Moment," convinces Elwood to press on, and the band leaves on foot, only to run across a tent revival run by Reverend Morris (the alive-and-kicking, and also great Sam Moore of Sam and Dave) and Cleophus James (the late, great, but also deeply felonious, James Brown). The police catch up with them, but Cab is overcome with the power of the reverends' words and gives up his life as a policeman...to...sing the blues...because...uh...Jesus...?

Now overflowing with frontmen, the band once again escapes and makes its way to Louisiana, where they are forced to audition for Queen Mousette in order to gain entry into the battle of the bands. Of course, they get in, which is helpful because, otherwise, there would have only been one band playing. This would not be so much a "battle," as a "regular show." It should be noted, however, that the other band, The Louisiana Gator Boys, is pretty darn good, containing as it does the likes of Mr. Gasperone, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Vaughan, Steve Winwood, Isaac Hayes, Coco Taylor, Dr. John, Travis Tritt, Clarence Clemons, Lou Rawls, and what appears to be every great Blues and R&B artist available at the time.

Reminder:The Blues Brothers Band had...this.
How will the Blues Brothers band fare against the Louisiana Gator Boys? Will Elwood finally be made to pay for the death and destruction he caused all across the country? Will somebody explain the need to have a ten-year-old boy involved in all of this? You'll have to tune it to find out!

Derek loved the music. The movie...not so much. It all felt too forced, and it appears that Aykroyd and director John Landis felt the same way. However, it still happened, and someone needs to pay, because the viewing audience certainly didn't. He is also sad that a solid half of the cameo stars are no longer with us.

Jake also enjoyed the music, but he disliked the movie even more. He is almost enraged at the idea of adding a small boy to the movie just to draw in a younger crowd. They didn't need that when they almost single-handedly revived the public's interest in the Blues back in 1980! Heck no! All they had was some music, some dark sunglasses, and the late, astoundingly great Carrie Fisher with a rocket launcher!

So break out those old 78 RPM records, put on a dark suit and sunglasses, and check out this week's episode!

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