** (out of 5)
June 20, 2014
John Lloyd Young as FRANKIE VALLI
Erich Berge as BOB GAUDI
Michael Lomenda as NICK MASSI
Vincent Piazza as TOMMY DEVITO
Christopher Walken as GYP DECARLO
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
While I’m pretty much up on the happenings in the film world, and maybe about half as much on the happenings in the television world, I don’t know a whole lot about the Broadway stage. However, I have been aware that the musical “Jersey Boys” has been a massive hit for years. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about it.
Still, I really didn’t follow Broadway enough to know it was about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, nor had I ever had any interest in seeing the show… even though apparently everyone in the known universe thinks it’s the bee’s knees.
So, I have never seen the Broadway production, and I didn’t think much of it until I saw a trailer for the film version just a couple months ago. And I’ll admit that I wasn’t impressed with it.
I’m not reviewing the trailer here, but rather the film. Though remarkably, all the things that jumped out at me from the trailer were exactly the things that gave me problems with the movie as a whole. From a now-cliched look of Clint Eastwood’s cinematography to the somewhat pedantic story points that we’ve already seen in a dozen other musical biopics, this film left me uninspired and, quite frankly, bored.
The story follows a young Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) as he goes from the streets of New Jersey to become the lead singer in the wildly popular Four Seasons musical group. We follow him, through the inconsistent narration of his band-mates, as they avoided getting overly mixed up with the mob to becoming legends, then through their tough times and later years.
As I’ve come to expect with any movie that Clint Eastwood directs, you get an exquisitely-looking movie. The camera set ups are well-planned, and the image is crisp and clean. However, as I’ve also come to expect, Eastwood is showing his age with this movie. Even when dealing with mildly edgy characters, this film has no edge to it. There’s no spark, there’s no pizzazz and there’s no real excitement.
In this sense, “Jersey Boys” is a stroll through the park with your aging uncle who adores Frankie Valli and makes you listen to records as he recalls the good old days. Sure, there’s a certain warmth to it, but even at the ripe middle age of 42, I found myself antsy and wanting to move on almost as soon as the movie starts.
One of the draws of the Broadway show I’m told is the fact that you get a two-for-one deal: a dramatic stage production and a Four Seasons cover band concert rolled together. However, the appeal of four men belting out Frankie Valli’s biggest hits doesn’t hold the same glamour in a movie theater as a live show does. I suspect that Eastwood figured this out, which is why the musical elements of the film are toned down quite a bit. In fact, when I was asked by someone whether this was a musical, I had a hard time saying it was. Instead, it was a drama with musical numbers, much like we saw in other famous musician biopics like “Ray” and “Walk the Line.”
I suppose the big draw for “Jersey Boys” will be for three types of fans: fans of the Broadway show, fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and fans of Clint Eastwood’s later directorial efforts. Unfortunately, I fall into none of those categories. That’s not to say I dislike the Four Seasons or that I think Eastwood is a hack. I like some of the songs, though Valli’s voice (or anyone imitating him) can only go for a couple songs before grating on my nerves. Likewise, I think Eastwood is a fine director, but he’s showing his age with the pacing of many of his most recent movies.
In the end, “Jersey Boys” is a well-made film that had very little appeal to me. But I’m sure the right audience will eat it up.