Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jersey Boys Review

The Good, The Bad and The Jersey
Unbenonkwest to the band, the car, a Transformers in
disguise, had pulled up on its own to watch them sing. 
Whenever someone brings up Jersey Boys, they don't talk about the story, or Frankie Valli or the Broadway show from which it's adapted. The one thing everyone chatters about is the fact that Clint Eastwood, The Man With No Name, is directing a musical! How does that work out? Well, if Eastwoods first musical was Little Shop of Horrors or Mamma Mia! or something, yeah, I'd totally see that. But Jersey Boys in its cinematic incarnation (I've never seen the show on stage) isn't truly a musical, not in the "Let It Go" sense. Characters sing, but considering the real life people on which the characters are based on actually did this for a living, it feels natural to have some tunes going around.

Nope, no showy musical numbers in this one (well, sort of. I'll discuss that with spoilers below). Instead, we're left with a drama that's weirdly routine. Now, my mom's oldies station has constantly been on in our home, meaning me and The Four Seasons music go way back. Matter of fact, I distinctly remember her playing the soundtrack for the stage show of Jersey Boys for the entire family one day, not realizing all the F-words in the show had been left on the tracks! Yeah, I've been around the block with these songs, and lemme tell ya, they've got way more zest in one verse than this entire 134 minute film.

I'm not saying the movies a catastrophe or anything, but the story unfolding on the screen just isn't that compelling. Much of that has to with the fact that the members of the Four Seasons just don't have that much personality, they sort of just remain one-note personalities despite all the emotional turmoil the script tosses at them. This isn't too much of a problem when they're belting out a fantastic song, but when things get centered on the four themselves, the whole affair hits a snag. The entire start of the picture is especially guilty of this, with things getting agonizing as three of the four members sort of just stumble around through shenanigans until it's time for them to "get along"

Her'es where I wish I could say the acting saved the day or something, but unfortunately, it doesn't. Y'see, the four members of this one don't have the widest acting experience (though two of them have done this show before on stage), and only one of them makes an impression. Unfortunately, that one actor isn't John Lloyd Young, who portrays Frankie Valli, the character we spend the most of the film with. Valli is as complex as the maze on a kids menu at a diner, he's really just portrayed as the ultimate goody-two shoes. He treats a handshake as a contract, gets anyone out of a financial bind and the worst thing he does is in the film is smash a teacup. I'm not asking you to turn him into Jordan Belfort, but something, anything interesting besides that (admittedly excellent) voice? Nope, both the script and Lloyd just settle for making Valli as generic as possible.

Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito at least gets some energy in his performance, though he goes way too over-the-top in some scenes where he acts "smarmy". Michael Lomenda, playing Nick Massi, is easily the most forgettable of the bunch, with the films last minute attempt to wring an emotional arc out of him feeling more forced than effective. But thankfully, Erich Bergen knocks it out of the park as Bob Guadio, the only one of this group that has not only some kind of personality, but also some acting chops. The rest of the movie plays out alright despite that awful beginning; I particularly felt the ending of the movie was well done, as was any sequence involving the singing, which work wonders thanks to the fact that the songs the Four Seasons made are just so fantastic. Honestly, this isn't some trainwreck, but since the movie rests its focus on these four leads more than anything (yep, even more than the music), the movie suffers. With just a dash more of personality, and a lot more script and character work, Jersey Boys could have been compelling, and not dull, something Valli's music never was.


Alright, so, after playing things like a straight drama for the films entirety, the audiences are treated to a traditional musical number, complete with complex choreography and tons of extras. All the characters come out for a "curtain bow" of sorts, and help sing with The Four Seasons all of the films musical highlights. It's so jarring to see this upbeat distinctly "Broadway" number play after the movie, which mainly retains a serious tone (though there are some funny moments that play out nicely) But, it is entertaining enough, and makes for a zesty way to end the picture. Plus, a moment during it where Christopher Walken does the dancing routine with a face that distinctly says "Kill me now" is a sight to behold.

No comments:

Post a Comment