I am always the guy who complains when you compare the movie and the book, so get ready for a heaping helping of hypocritical from me as I compare the show and the movie. I should feel much more ashamed.
Based on the true story and the immensely popular Broadway musical, John Lloyd Young stars as Frankie Valli – a young man with a talented voice growing up just outside Newark, NJ in the 1950’s. It’s a rough and tumble world where you go into the military, the mafia or find some way to become famous enough to get out. Frankie and his buddies want to be famous, and we see the tumultuous story of how The Four Seasons conquers the music world, while their group and families fall apart.
Jersey Boys is heavy stuff with one of the greatest soundtracks you could ever compile, but director Clint Eastwood seems to be missing the mark just a little bit. Where’s the energy and excitement?
If you have ever seen Jersey Boys on stage, it is an electrifying experience where the cast interacts with the audience, the music explodes off the stage and the audience is enraptured by the constantly changing set. Eastwood can’t duplicate that as he makes a very standard biographical movie, but he is not quite getting the juice needed to take Jersey Boys the movie from decent to great. It’s an emotionally numb movie.
The storytelling is superb. Eastwood is able to show you the complex menagerie of people who help make The Four Seasons one of the greatest and most successful bands in the history of music. It’s not just Frankie’s voice. It’s also Bob Gaudio’s writing. Producer Bob Crewe’s guiding hand, motivational methods and recording tactics to help that music sound so amazing. It’s the people from the neighborhood looking out for a kid who seems to have something special to make it out of the neighborhood. It’s even the kind of slimy Tommy DeVito, who is using everyone’s talent’s to make his life better, but also doing the underhanded and dirty work that was kind of necessary to survive and thrive.
Like the show, Eastwood still has the cast kind of telling us the story and giving us the insight we need to understand what is happening on stage, but we need more help with the timeline. It’s virtually impossible to tell what year each event is happening unless you are a hardcore Frankie Valli fan.
The cast makes Jersey Boys worthy enough to see. John Lloyd Young excels as the younger Frankie, but seems to suffer with the weight of the movie as the story grows more mature and complex. His performance is understated in some good ways, and he picks moments to capture the right fury, but his performance becomes as flat as the movie towards the end.
Jersey Boys could use a little more lightheartedness, but we do get to see the comical and tragic naiveté of the characters as Eastwood is smart enough to rely on the songs, which has always been a proven path to success for The Four Seasons.
Jersey Boys is rated R for language throughout.