From the big musical numbers, to the characters stopping at times to directly address the audience and the staging of much of the action, Jersey Boys feels every bit the adapted stage jukebox musical which spawned it. Fans of The Four Seasons are likely to enjoy themselves, although 134-minutes of Frankie Valli‘s recreated high-pitched crooning in stereo surround started to wear on me before the credits rolled.
Choosing to go mostly without bigger names to sell the film, John Lloyd Young steps in to play the role of Valli which won him a Tony Award for his performance on Broadway. Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda round out the group in this mostly by-the-numbers look at the rise and fall of the 60s group who produced a number of hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Walk Like A Man,” and “Rag Doll.”
A tale of a bunch of Jersey guys who made good, Jersey Boys is your typical modern musical which feels more like a greatest hits of Frankie Valli’s life and music than the true story behind the band.
Christopher Walken, by far the film’s most recognizable star, has a supporting role of a Jersey gangster whose support of Frankie helps the struggling singer get through some of the rougher patches of his life. As for Valli, the movie comes awfully close into making a martyr of the singer whose noble actions are used to sharply contrast the motives of his best friend (Piazza) who keeps Frankie’s loyalty long after he’s shown unworthy of it.
Set mostly in the late 50s and early 60s the film jumps ahead following the break-up of the band to focus more on Valli’s family and the group’s eventual reunion (in some pretty horrendous old-age makeup) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. These segments, particularly that of Frankie’s relationship with one of his daughters (Freya Tingley) isn’t as well integrated with the rest of the story as I’d like, but the finale at he Hall of Fame works as an acceptable coda to close the movie.
Jersey Boys doesn’t look or feel like a movie directed by Clint Eastwood, and although not a complete puff piece it’s easily the lightest thing the director has tackled in years (it even makes Trouble with the Curve look edgy). Fans of the stage show or Hollywood musicals will probably enjoy themselves, but I don’t see Jersey Girls converting anyone else over to the genre or it being likely to bring the casual fan back for multiple viewings.