PHOTO BY GK FILMS
Where is it playing?: Stadium 10
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $2.00
Director Clint Eastwood brings Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s popular musical about the rise of the iconic ’60s quartet The Four Seasons to the big screen. Witness the rise to fame, the tough times, the personal clashes, and personnel changes of Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Nick DeVito (Johnny Cannizzaro), and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen).
About two hours into Clint Eastwood’s musical film adaptation, Jersey Boys, a character bursts forth from his seat and, foaming at the mouth, yells at another character about towels and urinating in the sink. This is the most entertaining moment in the movie. And that’s a sad state of affairs because Jersey Boys, the Broadway musical based on the (mostly) true story of The Four Seasons, has the kind of snappy pace, razzle dazzle story, and hit-a-minute soundtrack that would be easily translatable to screen. If only that screen wasn’t Eastwood’s.
At its heart, Jersey Boys is about fame, family, and largely light-hearted pizzazz. As a director, Eastwood is known for raw grit, muted tones, and rather grim violence. Unlike the harmonies of The Four Seasons, these two do not blend well. From the beginning, the problems are embarrassingly evident. Low-level mook Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) begins by addressing the camera, and by way of leather garments and grease-powered charisma, tells us this is Jersey. You can already hear Scorsese weeping. For nearly an hour, Jersey Boys plays like the daytime soap equivalent of Goodfellas. A young, fresh talent (Frankie Valli, played by the original Broadway cast member John Lloyd Young) joins a group of established professionals; there are activities of varying illegality; Joe Pesci is there—his character in Goodfellas is not named Tommy DeVito by coincidence.
However, what isn’t a ham-fisted gangster tribute is a half-assed musical tribute. Even if the script (penned by the musical’s writers, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) feels empty and unfinished, even if the acting (for the most part) makes a children’s theater production seem polished and lively, and even if the pacing is jarringly uneven, this film could have redeemed itself with vibrant musical numbers at least on par with the live show—but it doesn’t. They sound nice, sure. Lloyd Young, in particular, does justice to Valli’s towering falsetto, but Eastwood’s dour atmosphere dilutes its power. Not even a minor but impactful turn by Christopher Walken as mobster Gyp DeCarlo can inject a little life into this piecemeal showboat.
About one hour into Jersey Boys, the boys in question gather round the phone during a call to their record producer, Bob Crewe. The group’s keyboardist and songwriter, Bob Gaudio, has just penned a song on his bus ride over to the meeting. It took 15 minutes to write. It should be awful. It wasn’t. It was “Sherry”—The Four Seasons’ first No. 1 hit. Jersey Boys takes the opposite run. It feels like it took 15 minutes to write, but the notes fall flat. (134 min.)
—Jessica Peña; New Times arts editor