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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Jersey Boys | Vincent Piazza, John Lloyd Young, Michael Lomenda, Erich Bergen, Joseph Russo, Mike Doyle | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD


Jersey Boys

We've seen or heard stories like this numerous times; the rags to riches tale of those who have achieved stardom or fame. Legendary 60's pop quartet Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, certainly fits the bill. It was their back story that became the subject of the 2006 Tony Award winning musical Jersey Boys which went on to become a global sensation with companies performing throughout the world including Las Vegas.

It was just a matter of time before Hollywood would come calling and adapt the Broadway musical to the big screen. Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood was the wrong man to sit in the director's chair and his vision doesn't meet the expectations of those who have seen and loved the Broadway musical.

More like a dramatic bio pic with occasional music interjected, the film version of Jersey Boys is slow paced and bland and lacks star power except for Christopher Walken who does his typical shtick.  Only this time around its conveyed in the persona of the local mob boss, Gyp DeCarlo. Aside from Vincent Piazza from TV's “Boardwalk Empire” who portrays Tommy DeVito, three of the four leads performed in various stage companies of “Jersey Boys”.

Adapted from the stage musical by its book authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the story, which spans four decades, begins in Bellevue, New Jersey circa 1951 and follows the behind the scenes look at Frankie Valli's (Tony winner John Lloyd Young, brilliantly channeling Valli's unique vocals) rise to fame from his humble beginnings as 16 year old Frankie Casteluccio, working in a barbershop through his career as the lead singer of The Four Seasons (the name was supposedly taken from a bowling alley's neon sign) and solo performer.

Although lead singer Frankie, whose unique falsetto voice  was the main attraction, his childhood friend, sleazy, two bit hustler Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza from TV's “Boardwalk Empire” ) was the band's lead guitarist, driving force and control freak and played an integral part in the rise and fall of the group's career because of his criminal tendencies, connection to mobsters, and his debt to loansharks and the IRS that amounted to $1.5 million.    

Rounding out the quartet were bass player Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and songwriter/lyricist Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) who was introduced to the group by Tommy's friend, Joey Pesci (Joseph Russo). Gaudio, a smart businessman as well as creative genius, knew right away after hearing Frankie sing, that he wanted to write the group's songs and as keyboard player, became the fourth member of the group.

With the addition of Gaudio and then catching the ear of flamboyant producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), who signed the group to a contract, the quartet's career skyrocketed with the release of three consecutive #1 hits, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like A Man.

Along with the problematic DeVito, the group's offstage lives were wracked with infighting, money issues, personal conflicts, and Frankie's domestic problems stemming from concert tours that keep him away from his tough, brassy wife Mary (Renee Marino)  and their three daughters for long periods.  It was an issue that eventually destroyed his marriage and led to tragic consequences regarding his daughter Francine.

In the stage production each member of the quartet told their version of the story. In the film adaptation, only at times does each get a chance to address the camera and talk about a particular moment or critical aspect of their career from their point of view.

You would think that Eastwood, an Academy Award winning director, would utilize his creative juices and turn the beloved staged musical into a powerhouse movie. But no, it appears that Eastwood doesn't quite connect, nor have the necessary feel for the music.  Pop music isn't his forte, and it shows. His Jersey Boys is all about lingering on the drama, with only sporadic musical numbers, which, of course, are the highlights of any musical. Instead of a fantastic well conceived movie, what we get is an ill conceived, poorly directed film, lacking character development, no fault of the actors, who do their best with the material they are given.

It's a shame because here are several missed opportunities to give this movie a much deserved shot in the arm. For example, Walken, who started his career as a song and dance man, is relegated to the sidelines and we don't get to see him strut his stuff in the terrific closing credits number, “December 1963, Oh, What A Night”, lifted straight from the stage production, that turns out to be the best part of the film.

Too long and dragging at a running time of 132 minutes, the big screen version of Jersey Boys doesn't live up to its potential. You don't have to take my word. If you really want to know what you are missing, go see the show. In my home base of Las Vegas, the hit production is staged in Le Theatre de Arts at the Paris Hotel and Casino.


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