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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 7/21/98



Blues Brothers 2000
Collector's Edition - 1998 (1998) - Universal Studios

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Film Rating: D-
A massively dull and uninteresting sequel to The Blues Brothers. The original had heart and soul... this one is just plain DOA. Unfortunate.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/B+
The video quality is mostly terrific, and the music sounds great. The extras are there too, but they hold little interest unless you enjoyed the film.

Overall Rating: C-
Buy this DVD... ONLY if you REALLY liked the movie. Otherwise, save your money and wait for Universal's upcoming DVD release of the original Blues Brothers.

Specs and Features

124 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:12:17), Amaray keep case packaging, documentary: The Making of Blues Brothers 2000, production notes, cast and crew bios, poster gallery, production photos, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (41 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

All right, here's the story: eighteen years after the events of The Blues Brothers, Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) is released from prison, only to find that his brother Jake has died. So, Elwood returns to the St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud orphanage (which he and Jake risked all to save in the first film) and learns he has half-brother (well, sort of). He's also asked to become a mentor to a troubled kid named Buster (J. Evan Bonifant). So, in an unbelievably slow and plodding series of events, Elwood sets out to (what else?) get the band back together. And along the way, we must endure a series of flatly staged production numbers, unfunny cameos, obligatory car chases, and self-important nods to more than a dozen of music's finest performers.

To call this film lackluster and uninspired devalues the meaning of those two adjectives. I'd heard that this movie languished in 'development hell' for years before the green-light was finally given. It should have stayed there.

There were several things that made the original Blues Brothers work so well. The story and jokes were dryly funny, even twisted. It was moody... gritty. It gave plenty of nods to its blues music origins, yet these didn't slow the film down. Instead, the entire film had an unapologetic, take-no-prisoners attitude. Blues Brothers 2000, on the other hand, has none of these qualities. The film starts so slowly, and meanders for so long through so many uninteresting plot points, that any enthusiasm the audience has is long dead before the film is even half over. There isn't a single laugh for at least the first fifteen minutes. Even the film's locations (a Chicago strip club, for example) look false and artificial. There's no life to any of these places.

There's no life to any of the performances either. Aykroyd awkwardly (say that 10 times fast) plods through page after page of flat dialogue. His Elwood character worked so well in the original, because he was the straight man to John Belushi's energetic and over-the-top Jake Blues (who, oddly enough, you never even see a picture of in this film). But there's no one for Aykroyd to play against here - John Goodman's Mighty Mack is a soft-spoken lug. Bonifant (as Buster) is a Home Alone sequel wannabe. And Elwood's 'new' brother Cabel Chamberlain (Joe Morton) is a starch-collared Illinois State Patrol commander of all things. Even the plot points here are pale carbon copies of the original film: the nun whacks Elwood around with a pointer when he swears, there's a police car pileup, Russian mobsters and White Supremacists replace Illinois Nazis, the band stops at Bob's Country Kitchen (as opposed to Bob's Country Bunker), there a southern tent revival (with yes... James Brown, where yes... a character 'sees the light'). It's all very lame. Director John Landis seems to have phoned this one in for the paycheck. There's just nothing to inject any energy into this film.

OK, let me take that back - the music is good. But the musical numbers are so unmotivated (not to mention staged lifelessly by choreographer Barry Latter), that you just don't care. The effect is rather like those musical tributes at the Academy Awards - you wish they would just get a clue and leave 'em out so the winners can thank their parents without getting interrupted. "OK, Mr. King? You and Lucile just stand here and read from the teleprompter. Mr. Clapton? You and Aretha do your thing, take a little bow and quickly leave the stage..." Want an example: the band Blues Traveller makes a brief musical appearance here... which plays in the film as though you're flipping cable channels and accidently stumble across their video on VH1. Boring.

Ironically, the production quality of this DVD is really terrific (it's a shame the movie doesn't match it). The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and it's in anamorphic to boot. The disc is a DVD-9 (RSDL dual-layered) with a nice, on-the-fly layer switch in Chapter 24 (1:12:17 on the counter). The video quality is generally excellent, although some scenes occasionally appear unnecessarily soft (I suspect a cinematography issue, not a transfer issue). The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround is well balanced, but other than a few gimmick car-crash scenes, isn't fully exploited. However, the music does sound fantastic. The 2.0 Dolby Pro-Logic sound is flat but adequate, and again, the music is good. 5.1 sound is also provided in French, and there are English captions and Spanish subtitles. The film runs 2 hours and 4 minutes, with 41 chapter stops.

There are plenty of special features to be found on this DVD. There's an adequate, 24 minute featurette entitled The Making of Blues Brothers 2000 (with 9 chapters). There's also a widescreen theatrical trailer, a gallery of production photographs, a gallery of poster artwork, production notes and cast & crew biographies. The only thing I would have liked to have seen (especially with this title) would be music tracks playing behind the menu screens (like Universal'sApollo 13 DVD, for example). Oh well, the movie blows anyway.

Bottom line

Blues Brothers 2000 makes a nice DVD, but is a seriously disappointing film - one that can't decide if it wants to be a movie or a concert video. I would have settled for the soundtrack CD and been perfectly happy. I just hope that Universal's releasing this DVD first, doesn't turn people away from buying the much better, original Blues Brothers when it hits DVD in September.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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