You’ve heard their timeless hits. You’ve attended the critically acclaimed and award-winning Broadway show. Now it’s time to see the feature film!
I hate to go all Grumpy Cat on this film, but Jersey Boys is a redundant, lengthy (over 2 hours!) and pointless dollar-grab.
Back in the early 1950s, Francis Castaluccio was just a teenager with loving parents, amazing pipes, and the most despicable friends ever. Frankie and Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick DeVito and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) form a quartet of petty thieves who run errands for Mobsters and sing songs in their spare time. The plot of the film, and nearly everything else for that matter, comes directly from the book upon which the stage production is based. We get to see all the shady deals and strokes of luck that take The Four Lovers from obscurity to the popularity they enjoyed as The Four Seasons.
What we don’t get to see is any depth behind any of the characters or the events that took place. The film hints at the fact that they sold 100 million records, but makes it seem like the group just split their time between TV shows and County Fairs. People get divorced and get nose-deep into debt, but the details are glossed over in favor of another cheesy story about how Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the songwriter/keyboardist who replaced Nick DeVito, came up with the name of a song. The whole film was a bit of a jumbled mess, with no clear chronology or real examination of anyone’s psyche. This works well onstage, but is not enjoyable onscreen. Speaking of which, director Clint Eastwood should have cut out the narration by the actors. In a theater, a narrating monologue is a great way to do a set change without losing the audience’s attention. On a movie set, it’s a great way to confuse everyone because no one can tell if the actor is talking to himself, the audience or another character. What could have been accomplished with a few well-written voiceovers was just a huge distraction. I really do not understand the purpose of the movie if the script and performance devices were all going to be the same as the musical.
The only place where the movie did not falter was the music. John Lloyd Young has the same soaring falsetto that made him a convincing Frankie Valli in the original Broadway cast and his sensitive approach to the character works. I definitely felt teary-eyed during his rendition of my favorite song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” All of the actors sang live onset and brought songs that have rounded out so many soundtracks to life beautifully. I am actually looking forward to the release of the Jersey Boys soundtrack on June 24.
But even the film’s high point can’t compare to the magic of hearing the songs live in a theater or the original recordings. Also, the real Frankie Valli is still touring and still sounds as angelic as he did 60 years ago, so it was a real waste of a miracle not to include a living legend in a film about his art. Not one second of historical footage or even one photograph of the actual band was used to help tell their story. Instead, when trying to depict how the bandmates looked in 1990, the crew resorted to obviously terrible makeup jobs.
The whole project is stained with laziness that is totally uncharacteristic of Mr. Valli, Mr. Gaudio and Mr. Eastwood. I warn anyone who has seen the musical to stay far away from this movie and everyone else to either spend their money on downloads or save their pennies to see the show.
Final Grade: C