CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Jersey Boys.
The film Jersey Boys is based on the Tony Award-winning musical that took Broadway by storm some years ago. It’s the story of the four guys that came together to make music history. Paths collide on the wrong side of the tracks for these four guys from Jersey.
You’ve got Frankie (as in Valli, John Lloyd Young), Tommy (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire), Nick (Michael Lomenda) and Bob (Erich Bergen, Desperate Housewives). Bob is the last one in, and the writer of some of the most legendary hits of the era. Tommy is the gang leader and band leader. He is very much the one who says jump and how high. The evolution of how the group works all hinges on Tommy… Even the name of the group is something Tommy wants to control.
But after a clandestine conversation outside of a bowling alley, the become the Four Seasons! As the group struggles to book gigs and make records that will get played… they begin to define their rolls in the group. Of course everyone needs someone to believe in them… and for the four guys from Jersey — especially Franki — it was Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). He’s a crucial player in the formation of the group and in saving them when the chips fall… but more on that later.
Some of the back story is slow-moving and a bit of a bore, but it’s seemingly necessary to build to the finish and understand how everything ends up. The back story also makes us appreciate the shining moments of the stage, the highs along with the lows of the story of the Four Seasons. One by one, we get the behind-the-scenes stories of the biggest hits of the Four Seasons. From “Sherry Baby” to “Walk Like a Man” … we go zooming through from the history to the stage.
At the center of the story of course is Frankie Valli. Frank Lloyd Young originated the Valli role in the Broadway hit and Clint Eastwood knew he had to use him in the big screen version. Young shines in his first big box office role! Can’t imagine anyone else hitting the right notes as Frankie Valli.
Michael Lomenda and Erich Bergen had performed in the stage tour of Jersey Boys as Nick and Bob respectively… and were awesome in their roles and Vincent Piazza from Emmy-inning TV show Boardwalk Empire brought the right amount of darkness and spiral to the role of Tommy. In fact we learn that Tommy created such a strain on the group, he was the downfall of the Four Seasons. Even Gyp DeCarlo couldn’t rescue the group from the mess Tommy made of the group’s finances. It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold amid the lights and spectacle of them being a supergroup in the time.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, the screen version of Jersey Boys leans heavier on the story than the music — which should really be the star of the story. The back story is heavy and dark and slow, but the musical moments shine, just don’t get enough of them. It seems clear to me that Eastwood was less willing to show the musical side than he was enchanted with sharing the back story itself.
While there are some clunky parts here and there, I’m a big girl and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” over the little things… Jersey Boys is entertaining and hits it’s target audience where it lives… I know I’ll still love it tomorrow.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE COOKIES
Rated R for language throughout.