‘Jersey Boys’: A Night Not To Be Remembered

Everyone knows the music of The Four Seasons. Who doesn’t have some sort of fond memory attached to “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” or “December, 1963?” So it’s not clear why director Clint Eastwood would turn Jersey Boys into such a grim affair. The film does have its moments, some are even gripping, but most of the film feels like a train ride to somewhere exotic: dull and monotonous with the promise of something great to come.

For those unfamiliar with the wildly successful Broadway show on which the film is based, Jersey Boys tells the story of The Four Seasons, from their humble beginnings on the wrong side of Newark to their massive success. The story is told in parts, with each of the founding members getting a chance to tell “his side” of the story. Those sides are portrayed by John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli), Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), Vincent Piazza (Tommy DeVito), and Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi).

It is the film’s cast that is its strongest point. Most notably Young, who is reprising the role he originated on Broadway, who seems born to play Valli; close your eyes and it’s hard to tell whether Young or Valli is singing. Christopher Walken also stars as a mobster/father figure to The Four Seasons; he’s delightful as ever.

So with a cast so energetic and talented, it’s unclear why Eastwood decided to strip all the excitement from Jersey Boys. It’s tough to even call the film a musical, so much as it is a biopic scored entirely by The Four Seasons. The difference is subtle, but gone is the energy of live performance that propels Jersey Boys the stage show forward. Instead we get montages set to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the odd Ed Sullivan performance to showcase what these boys could do on a stage.