Monday, 1 December 2014

Review: Blues Brothers 2000 (#CrapSequels)

World of Blackout: CRAP SEQUEL SEASON!

flms. srs bsns. We've all been there; Browsing in Blockbuster, the HMV sale or the bargain-DVD section in Sainsbury's, and we come across a plastic case which gives us an involuntary tingle of excitement. Someone's made a sequel to that movie we like! How did this slip under our radar? Why wasn't this on at our local cinema? Why are we only hearing about this now? Well, there's only one way to answer that question; it involves spending the requisite £3 and usually ends with the question 'Why did this get made, never mind how?'.

The rules for selection are as follows: 1) The film needs to be a poorly received sequel to a generally successful film (so no crap sequels to crap originals, and no crap remakes of originals), 2) Films from longer series are fine, but the choice needs to be part two of that line, 3) I'm not intending to watch any of the associated part-ones as part of this run (whether I'm familiar with them or not), so there'll be extra pressure on the crap sequel to work on its own terms. So join me as I delve into some of the crappest, most unwarranted follow-ups of all time (hopefully with a couple of underrated, misunderstood gems thrown in).

How bad can it be, right? I mean, the original was good…

CRAP SEQUELS! Blues Brothers 2000.

#CrapSequels: Blues Brothers 2000
Cert: PG / 119 mins / Dir. John Landis
Year: 1998 (18 years after the first movie*1)

The general feeling: RT Score: 45% / IMDB Score: 4.8

This film was released in the same year as The Big Lebowski. Think about that for a second. Although I'm sure John Goodman tries not to. I'm not even a fan of 1980's The Blues Brothers, but I can still recognise a classic from the love its shown by its fanbase, and even I know when that should be left the fuck alone. Having the words "For John Belushi" appear on screen immediately after the Universal logo doesn't make it any less of an insult, surely? If anything it's just more of a tacit admission of guilt, as John Landis and Dan Aykroyd blithely return to the well just like no-one asked them to…

A slow, dialogue-sparse opening gives way to a slower dialogue-heavy setup scene whilst Dan Aykroyd gets hit with a stick (from whence the hilarity ensues). This clunky scripting continues throughout the film, leaving 'laugh gaps' for jokes which aren't there as Landis directs comedy like it's 1982. That so many of the original cast returned for this is either indicative of their faith in the project, or their utter naivety. In addition to this, there are also a range of established musicians apparently keen to jump on the bandwagon (which, comparably, would be a bit like Tom Hardy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cate Blanchett deciding that The Beatles' White Album could do with a sequel…)

This first-draft of a script features gags and witty asides that land with all the grace of a steel bin full of manure. But there isn't a pair of RayBans in this world dark enough to hide the desperation in Dan Aykroyd's eyes as he stands on-stage, crooning to a disinterested audience (both on-set and on the other side of the camera lens) with a pleading 'I've still got it, haven't I? Please tell me I've still got it' look burning through those tinted lenses. His acting's all over the place, giving the impression that his most awkward scenes were filmed at the front-end of the shoot, when he still wasn't entirely convinced that this was going to work (rightly, as it turned out). And while there's no shame in dubbing separately recorded sessions over in-movie musical scenes, if your cast are going to record a heartfelt, larynx-scorching vocal track, then their facial expressions on-set probably shouldn't look like they're ordering replacement hoover-bags…

By the time the film's third-act kicks in and the Blues Brothers Band are playing a gig to a voodoo priestess with magicked instruments, it's like a warning to never leave the tops off all the markers at once. I think the problem seems to be that the film's desperately trying to claw back something which I never loved in the first place. But since the film seems even more derided by fans of the original, I'm going to go so far as to say that it's not working for anybody. And yeah, the soundtrack makes up for it in some small, small way; but I can play Muddy Waters any time I want without rubbing sewage into my own eyes…

'Getting the band back together' has never felt so much like a midlife crisis as it does here.

WARNING: Features a worryingly large number of cars doing jumps, flips and leaps for no apparent reason and with no apparent mechanics of it happening, as well as a small cabin-boat apparently loaded full of explosives being flipped 80-feet into the air by a car going over a slight bump. Apparently.

Have you seen this before??
I haven't. Amazingly.

…but have you seen the original movie?
Not for a long, long time. To the point where I don't really remember it. It was TV on at a friend's house within the last year and seemed largely awful if I'm being honest, so we only ended up watching about ten minutes of it.

Do I have to have seen the original movie?
I'm getting the impression it would have helped, since the screenplay spends the first act making references to people and places it hopes the audience will find familiar.

How many of the original film's stars returned?
Oh, shitloads. Dan Aykroyd is at the head of a conga-line full of the nostalgically deluded…

Worth expanding into threequel territory?
HAHAHAhahahaha, you are funny. Just don't ask that question within earshot of John Landis…

Rent it, stream it, or wait for it to be on TV?
Whatever; on your own head be it…

Ah, but is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Not that I heard, but then I was busy for a lot of the film banging a metal tray over my own head, so I could well have missed it if it's there.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Why did this happen, though? I mean other than The Money, obviously...

*1 This 18-year gap at least meant that the original film was old enough (in the UK at least) to go into a bar and get fucking wasted when it saw what it had spawned.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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