Film: Landis turns a paler shade of Blue

The big picture

Blues Brothers 2000

John Landis (PG)

Until some bright spark decides that the world needs a Rocky VI, the new comedy could rate as the least eagerly anticipated sequel in cinema history. And one of the tardiest - it's 18 years since a generation of dopeheads grinned along to the facetious, dislocated humour of The Blues Brothers while the rest of the world scratched its head and wondered what was so funny.

Well: what was so funny? There was the unflappable, cadaverous composure of the two heroes, Jake and Elwood Blues, in the face of increasingly hazardous and surreal situations. And there were the car chases, shot and edited with an anthropological coldness which replaced the form's customary suspense and made the pile-ups numbly fascinating, like a zombie sex orgy. The picture perfectly suited the rambling, footloose rhythms of its director John Landis, a wayward talent who specialises in shaggy- dog stories such as his best film, Into the Night, or shaggy-monster stories like Schlock and An American Werewolf in London. Landis is back on board for , along with his co-writer and lead actor Dan Aykroyd, who plays Elwood, and together they have resurrected many of the first film's trademark scenes.

What they haven't been able to resurrect is John Belushi, who played Jake, though I suspect the possibility was explored - it would certainly have drawn the crowds, and there's the added bonus that the exhumed are only entitled to one tenth of their former salary, and rarely object to night shoots.

The movie never quite compensates for Belushi's absence. Rather than opting for the Trail of the Pink Panther trick of patching together a dead actor's outtakes to create a new performance, the film-makers take the Curse of the Pink Panther route and employ an entirely new performer. The rambunctious young comic Chris Farley would have been a nice choice to climb into Belushi's shoes, if he hadn't already followed in his footsteps in a more tragic sense. So instead there's John Goodman, whose spurious connection to Belushi is that he too happens to be fat. Their qualities, however, are diametrically opposed. While Goodman is warmly stoical, Belushi was uncouth and anarchic, though essentially naive; that's why his pairing with the flat, nasal Aykroyd was inspired. And you knew that Belushi's eyes were fizzing like fireworks behind his black shades, whereas Aykroyd and Goodman are more likely to fizzle out than fizz. In their scenes together, they're like two feed-lines waiting for a pay-off; it's enough to give you the blues.

What lifts you are Landis's engagingly silly flights of fantasy, whether it's the computer-generated horsemen of the apocalypse thundering overhead during "Riders in the Sky", or Elwood disguising himself under a mound of shaving foam with his sunglasses worn on top, like some twisted homage to Claude Rains. A few of the gentler gags are closer to the dry, stilted style of Aki Kaurismaki than fans of the hip Finnish director might care to concede. I had the lyrics to the film's Russian drinking song going round in my head for hours. Altogether now: "Please Mr Frost/ Please don't freeze me/ And please don't freeze my horse."

One of the few disappointments is the decision to extend the soundtrack's nostalgic bias to the picture's casting. The fleeting appearance of two young musicians - the radiant Erykah Badu and the sassy 16-year-old blues singer Jonny Lang - briefly invigorates the picture, but mostly Landis has called upon anyone who has ever played R'n'B and still has a pulse, or at least the number of a good taxidermist. The Blues Brothers Band are back, which will gladden the heart of anyone who can't get enough of pony-tailed, bottle-tanned Hall & Oates types with too-stiff jeans and weekend sneakers. James Brown reprises his role as a gospel preacher, and gets to yelp the line "Can you not embrace those who have wronged?", which is a wry touch. Meanwhile, a swollen Aretha Franklin belts out a new version of "Respect" in an embroidered orange suit that makes her look like a singing scatter-cushion.

Something that's missing from the music is its incongruity. When The Blues Brothers was released in 1980, cocky New Wavers were still surfing the charts; making an edgy, irreverent youth movie which was also a blues/soul/gospel musical seemed like a vaguely rebellious concept. But no movie which climaxes with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood jamming together, as does, has any right appearing in the same paragraph as the word "rebellious". Still, it's pleasing that the sweetly anachronistic production numbers have survived. There's a glorious set-piece at a phone-sex office, where employees in kaftans and hairnets cast aside their knitting to twirl swivel chairs and roll across desks, an image which should make 0898 addicts feel happier about calling in the future.

If I seem to have avoided the subject of the film's plot, that's because there isn't one. Landis never struck you as a director much preoccupied with logic, but in , his disregard for coherence and convention is so determined that it's almost charming. The conflict which the film has been building up to, with fascist thugs and Russian mafiosi cornering the band, is swiftly resolved when a deus ex machina materialises in the shape of a voodoo priestess who turns the bad guys into rats. Another perverse surprise, which hints that Landis is out to confound rather than conform to expectations, comes when the group fail to win the musical contest which they've spent the whole movie preparing for. How's that for a double non-whammy?

The film's sense of character motivation will also frustrate the literal- minded. After Elwood is released from prison at the start of the film, he hooks up with Buster (J Evan Bonifant), a young orphan and wannabe Blues Brother who wasn't even a Blues Foetus when the first film was made. Elwood decides to round up his old group and enter them into a "Battle of the Bands", and you half expect it all to be in aid of Buster - perhaps the prize money will go on the boy's education, or toward the drug habit which he'll need to foster if he wants to pursue a serious blues career.

But Buster's future doesn't even enter into it. In fact, there is no discernible reason for Elwood to reassemble the band, although when you've spent nearly two decades in prison, even jamming with Clapton and Winwood could start to look appealing - just as, for Aykroyd himself, pulling on the old suit and shades might have seemed like the only option after 18 years of making movies that few people saw and no-one can remember.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions