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Film review: Blues Brothers 2000

You don't go in to a "Blues Brothers" movie expecting realism on the scale of a fact-based drama. But asking even longtime fans to believe that the Blues Brothers Band could hold its own on-stage with an all-star group that features blues greats B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley and Eric Clapton is still pushing it.

Actually, if not for the stellar musical performances by the film's huge cast of blues and R&B artists (which also includes Junior Wells, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Erykah Badu), this sequel would have been a lot worse. With their more-than-able help, the musical numbers are better than those in the 1980 original.

As for the actual comedy, though, the plot is little more than a warmed-over rehash of the first film. But this time, it's Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd, who also produced and co-wrote the movie) who's released from prison at the beginning, having served an 18-year sentence for the criminal misbehavior (check "The Blues Brothers" for specific details).

Upon release, he also receives the sad news that his brother Jake has died, as has his mentor, Curtis. But on the plus side, he also receives two new sidekicks — a 10-year-old orphan named Buster (J. Evan Bonifant) and "Mighty" Mack McTeer (John Goodman), a bartender-turned-vocalist — and a new mission, to get the band back together and to win a battle of the bands in New Orleans.

This time, the adversaries for our heroes are straight-laced Illinois state trooper Cabel Chamberlain (Joe Morton), who is actually Curtis's illegitimate son, Russian gangsters and a pack of right-wing extremists, all of whom follow them down to Louisiana.

Director/co-writer John Landis plays things with a bigger-is-better mentality, even staging a multi-vehicle pileup that's larger than the one in the original film. But while the comedic scenes are hopelessly inept, Landis again shows a deft hand with the staging of the musical numbers, which should provide fans with a good enough reason to see the movie. (Don't leave before the credits or you'll miss two of the better songs.)

Also, while blues purists (elitists?) will probably be offended by the movie's commercial treatment of the musical style (which includes a not-brief-enough performance by Travis Tritt), musical director Paul Shaffer has done an admirable job of putting different artists together and giving everybody a chance in the spotlight.

"Blues Brothers 2000" is rated PG-13 for slapstick violence and gunfire, extensive use of profane language, bountiful partial female nudity (a long sequence in a strip club) and a couple of vulgar gags.