Garbage dumps, traffic round a bouts and broadway musicals are not my favorite things in the world. So you can imagine what my excitement level was over the decision to turn the musical Jersey Boys into a feature film. Then something happened. Clint Eastwood signed on to direct the film about the tumultuous rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to pop stardom. Clint hasn’t directed a bad film in years so I thought I would give Jersey Boys a chance and see what all the Garden State hoopla was all about. I should have trusted my initial instincts.
Jersey Boys is the story of four unlikable characters who do everything they can to screw up the good fortune that has been bestowed on them. John Lloyd Young reprises his Broadway role as Franki Valli. Young delivers a whiny performance and I’m not talking about his singing style. Young gives us a mopey Valli who is a huge doormat to his buddy Tommy DeVito played Nick Piazza. Tommy is a despicable character who plays up every Jersey Italian movie stereotype on-screen. It really is quite annoying during Jersey Boys two-hour plus running time.
No time is given for the other characters to develop so we are left with a quartet of moody guys from Jersey. Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda basically just play the other guys in the band. One is the straight arrow who treats the band as a business. The other is the “Ringo” of the band who has a deep voice. The two other members of the Four Seasons are only given a limited amount of time to develop with the “speaking to the audience” style of the story narration so we really don’t care about them at all. Speaking of those on-screen narrations.
I know Clint Eastwood was trying to keep the essence of Jersey Boys the Broadway musical in place, but certain things don’t translate to film. The character narrations in Jersey Boys are a perfect example of this. The talking to the audience by the actors may work in the environment of a play, but it comes across as distraction in Jersey Boys. Dirty Harry decided to be Marty Scorsese and it just doesn’t work. Leave the talking to the audience bit to Ferris Bueller, not the Four Seasons.
The biggest problem with Jersey Boys is it’s just a boring movie. A great music biopic is full of sex, drugs and rock and roll. This film has none of that. All the problems that could have made Jersey Boys an entertaining experience are left off camera. In exchange we get four guys arguing over who runs the band. Maybe this is a generational problem for me or that I didn’t grow up in the old neighborhood in Jersey which prevented me from relating to the story and the characters. All I know is Jersey Boys is just a flat film that gives us none of the risqué content we have become accustomed to with films based on a musical acts. At one point Erich Bergen’s Bob Gaudio states “I couldn’t give a (expletive) about the old neighborhood“. I couldn’t agree with you more. To be honest, I think I like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons less after seeing this film.
Overall, I give Jersey Boys 2 out of 4 stars.
Read all my Movie Reviews here >>