Starring John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Christopher Walken, Vincent Piazza and Michael Lomenda.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
When I think about the movie musicals of the past decade, there have been far more misses than hits. The Producers played as broadly on screen didn’t work as well for what might work on stage. Mamma Mia felt like a mess. Les Miserables was good but deeply flawed, with too many close-ups and Russell Crowe’s unfortunate vocal range. Rock of Ages was awesome when Tom Cruise was on screen and pathetic when he wasn’t. The Phantom of the Opera killed my desire to ever listen to the soundtrack again.
Jersey Boys is a musical in the sense that there’s a lot of songs, but all the songs are sung on a stage or in a studio. You could just as easily call Oliver Stone’s The Doors a musical. It tells the story of the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, how they came together, how they rode their fame, how it all fell apart.
It felt like I was watching a really good TV-movie or a really average big-screen movie. I think this is worth a rental, but paying full price in a theater, I’d hope to see more visual flair. Director Clint Eastwood is straight-forward with the story, and while it has its moments, nothing really stands out beyond the catchiness of the songs. John Lloyd Young won a Tony for his portrayal of Valli on Broadway. He’s an okay screen presense, but nothing screams “A star is born!” I think within two years, we’ll learn he’s been cast in some ensemble TV series. Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire) has the most fun in the quartet as the troubled Tommy DeVito.
One thing I hadn’t realized: Joe Pesci was around for the formation of the group. I don’t know how much license they took with that historically (“Joey” has a small but critical role in the film), but when Pesci went on to win an Oscar for GoodFellas, his character was named for his buddy from the neighborhood – Tommy DeVito.