Jersey Boys is based on the hugely successful Broadway musical telling the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but it isn’t exactly a musical – if we disregard the weirdly incongruous musical number that plays over the credits, anyway. Musical biopic would be a better description, as we follow the career of Frankie and his band members from Jersey hoodlums to musical superstars. Perhaps the best description of Jersey Boys, however, would be: a disappointment.
I haven’t seen the original musical, so my disappointment with Clint Eastwood’s adaptation don’t stem from dissatisfaction with omissions in that respect. I can point out specific problems with the film, from big – John Lloyd Young as Valli, who mostly succeeds as a singer but lacks plausibility as the man, or the mismanagement of the gloomier emotions in the last act – to small – being asked to accept forty year-old Young as sixteen early on, or some laughably false rear-projection in driving scenes. But the real failing of Jersey Boys is that it never captures the audience’s imagination. It’s a plod, a dry retelling of the Four Seasons that only occasionally sings like it should (for the most part, when the actors are actually singing).
It’s tempting to imagine a world where Jersey Boys was directed by Martin Scorsese. Or, hell, even edited by Scorsese’s long-term collaborator, editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Perhaps she’d give it the pizazz it needs in early scenes to capture the thrill of the music commingled with the mob theatrics that hang over the band’s early career. In fact, the film’s best moments feels nabbed straight from Schoonmaker’s playbook, as we smash cut from producer Bob Crewe’s (Mike Doyle’s) comment, “big girls don’t cry” straight to a performance of the song of the same name. For the most part, though, Eastwood’s drab direction and pedestrian pacing drags the film down.
At one point, Crewe tells the group, while they’re still slumming as backup singers: “I’m hearing it in sky blue, you’re giving it to me in brown!” The film has the same problem, striving from sky blue and coming up brown every time. Ringing in actors from The Sopranos doesn’t make you The Sopranos. Getting Joe Pesci – the character, mind, played by Joseph Russo – to snap “Funny how?” doesn’t make you Goodfellas. And dutifully translating a successful Broadway musical to the big screen doesn’t make you successful. Brown ain’t sky blue, I’m afraid.
This review was originally published at Cheated Hearts.