Movies

Review: 'Jersey Boys'

Two and a half stars

Let's face it: "Jersey Boys" has never been high art. The wildly successful jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons ran on chart-topping hit songs and ample corny shtick in nominally telling the story of the beloved pop act. Now, it's all been folded into a Clint Eastwood film that's neither theatrical fish nor cinematic foul.

John Lloyd Young reprises his Tony-winning role as Valli, the boy with the golden whiny falsetto and the friends who are "bad influences." Local tough guy Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) first ropes sixteen-year-old Frankie into a crime (though Valli narrowly escapes the "revolving door" of prison) and then into performing with Tommy's band. When Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) comes along with a head for musicianship and business, the act reaches a new level. Soon, the Four Seasons -- rounded out by Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) -- are a sensation.

The film, scripted by "Jersey Boys" playwrights Marshall Brickman ("Annie Hall") and Rick Elice, retains much of the play in alternating musical numbers "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)," "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" from the group's deep bench and compacted drama that strives for efficiency in explaining the band's origins, challenges, and resolution (such as it is) in the 1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reunion.

On the whole, this results in a "Greatest Hits" gloss both with the music and the drama. Literalized on film, the theatrical reduction of the band's story has an anemic cast, as does the bleached photography of Eastwood's go-to cinematographer Tom Stern. The film is least interesting when it feels like an impressionist's act complete with put-on mook accents and more interesting when it captures the dynamics of a group with strong egos and competing concerns. The inevitable "group argument" scenes -- one refereed by Joe Pesci (Joey Russo) (the "Goodfellas" actor grew up with the Four Seasons guys) and the other by real-life mobster "Gyp" DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) -- offer the clearest signs of life.

It's all rather square, with Valli characterized as effectively saintly, other than leaving his daughter in the care of an alcoholic "ex," which gives an opportunity for scenes of redemption and tragedy. Indeed, he's waggishly dubbed "Saint Francis." The big idea here is that it's quite something how the Four Seasons had loose mob ties and a criminal record, but that turns out to be a nonstarter in dramatic terms. More useful are the competing takes of each of the Four Seasons, afforded in monologues spoken directly to the camera and creating a light "Rashomon" effect.

Lovers of "Jersey Boys" and its music will no doubt appreciate the film, which benefits especially from the practiced performances of Young, Bergen, and Lomenda, all veterans of the stage play. It's unclear whether the corny gloss of the play would have worked any better than Clint's lower-key grasp at realism (probably not), but there's a palpable release when Eastwood stages one of those full-cast curtain calls under the closing titles. No movie can't be improved by Christopher Walken doing a shuffle.

Rated R for language throughout. Two hours, 14 minutes.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Handmade truffle shop now open in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 2,526 views

Why is doing nothing so difficult?
By Sally Torbey | 7 comments | 1,135 views

Breastfeeding Tips
By Jessica T | 6 comments | 1,064 views

Who Says Kids Donít Eat Vegetables?
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 887 views

Call it a novel: Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
By Nick Taylor | 1 comment | 273 views