Looking over the musicals that were coming out in 2014, I figured that Jersey Boys would be the clear favorite for the entire year. I saw the Broadway version of the musical and it was fantastic. It had everything: music people already knew and enjoyed, exciting stage work, humor, drama, gangsters, you name it.
It is one of the easier movies to make too. Slap on some period piece appropriate clothing, get some guys who performed the musical already, and record that puppy. I was first weary when I heard that Clint Eastwood was directing it, but then I figured if the people who made the initial musical are helping, Eastwood can just focus more on getting the singers to act the drama parts better and really amp up the crime element to a higher potential.
Now, after seeing the film? Well, maybe Muppets Most Wanted will be the best “musical” of the year.
Don’t even get me started on the new Annie and Into The Woods.
The original story is based on the (at the time) three surviving members of the Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Tommy DeVito. They gave the information to the musical writers, who put on the show, with the first two having veto rights if they didn’t like what was going down. So presumably a lot of the events are actually true.
This is a story about how a few guys from Jersey were able to make it out of their home cities without joining the military or joining the mob. Just kidding, the mob is here too, with the local boss played by Christopher Walken.
It is about how Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and his buddy Nick (Michael Lomenda) helped teach a then Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) how to train his voice to perform like an angel. Then their eventual finding of Bob (Erich Bergen), who could write them hits, play the piano and sing as well.
The story of four guys, rising to fame, how certain songs were conceived, and how they all began to crack and break apart thanks to home pressure, mob pressure, and money pressure. And two women who Frankie apparently slept with, played by Erica Piccininni and Renee Marino.
I like my lines of men like I like my computer. Shining and playing music.
Ahhh, musicals. What better way to put that song in your step as you leave the theater and go about your day? I love them so.
However, this movie really isn’t a musical. Sure, there are songs in it, but it is definitely feels a lot more like a generic biography film of a band, that features music the band did, than a musical. Something VH1 might have quickly thrown together. Only one real element of the movie is like a standard musical at the very end. When the story is over, but they sing and dance to two songs while walking down the street before the credits role. That is where we finally get to hear one of the more famous songs by The Four Seasons. A song that takes place much sooner in the story/broadway version, but they cut it out to save it. A time where they can actually use a song to help tell the story, instead of just being the guys singing in a club, and they push it to the end.
If that isn’t proof of them trying to take the musical out of the Broadway hit, then I don’t know what is.
I am not saying Jersey Boys ended up being terrible, it just ended up terribly disappointing as to what it could have been. So many things just felt off while watching the film. The story and plot were good. The music was good. Maybe the acting was off? They at least had the original Frankie Valli from the play reprise his role for this film, just none of the other guys.
They decided to go with a shitty brown filter over the whole film, to give it an old style, 60’s look. But it felt distracting to me. I would have definitely preferred instead a really nice polished looking movie, not the fake grittiness that made me compare parts of the movie to a Lifetime special.
I feel as I am being really hard on the movie, but it is just harder to point out the amazing parts versus its flaws. In all honesty, I think this is completely Clint Eastwood’s fault as a director. He meddled far too much in the musical side, making this into a more generic feeling movie. A lot of the charm was lost in the film making process, but thankfully this story had an over abundance of charm to work with.
So there are still fantastic moments to go along with the story, and not just the musical performances. For example, Lomenda did fantastic as the role of the bassist, really made it easy for the audience to feel his frustration and get on his side.
It just. It just could have been so much more.
1 out of 4.