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Jersey Boys (R)




Jersey Boys (R)
Film Reviews: June 26, 2014

06/26/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 Frankie Valli goes from would-be barber to singing sensation in Jersey Boys, a Clint Eastwood-directed adaptation of the popular musical.

Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) has an amazing vocal range — the high notes in “Sherry,” for example — that helps the band that eventually calls itself The Four Seasons develop a sound brand. Growing up in working-class New Jersey, Frankie has friends who can help him find a life beyond the barbershop where he works as an apprentice. But some of those same friends can also help him find trouble: Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and his boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) are big Frankie Valli fans. But, when he isn’t putting together bands and finding gigs, Tommy deals in merchandise that “fell off the truck” and Gyp is a straight-up mobster. Tommy, his brother and their buddy Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) seem to be constantly going in and out of jail but eventually, Tommy, Nick and Frankie are available at the same time. When songwriter and keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group thanks to an introduction by a kid named Joe Pesci (Joseph Russo), their sound comes together and they eventually cut albums with producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) that get radio play and start them on the road to success.
Of course, as everybody who has ever watched an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music knows, the road to success is littered with an assortment of temptations and slopes in the direction of growing animosity between band members. It also isn’t good for the home life, as Frankie finds out when his marriage to Mary (Renee Marino) falls apart and he is largely absent from his young daughters’ lives. 
Where to start — with Christopher Walken, who seems to be doing a not-particularly-good Christopher Walken impression, or with Renee Marino, who, perhaps in homage to the Sopranos alums in the cast (Steve Schirripa, Kathrine Narducci), apparently took classes at the Adriana La Cerva Memorial School of “Chris-ta-fah” Accents? Or do I explain how deeply distracting all the head bobs, a la a bad Robert De Niro impersonation, are, especially in the middle of what I suspect are supposed to be emotionally charged scenes? I can say I outwardly groaned when we caught a glimpse of a Clint Eastwood Western playing in the background and that more than once I cringed at the deeply (purposefully?) hokey scenes in cars, where the green screen effects seem to be applied by somebody who just that day learned Photoshop.  
Jersey Boys is really more musical biopic than musical — its DNA is more Ray than Rock of Ages. I went in with some familiarity of The Four Seasons and left, well, feeling like I’d probably had enough Four Seasons for a while. Usually, a movie of this ilk can kind of sell you on the music. To use those previous examples, I might not be a huge Ray Charles fan but the movie gave me an appreciation of the songs and made me want to hear more of his stuff. Even Rock of Ages made me feel a kind of nostalgic giddiness at hearing “Sister Christian.” But Jersey Boys doesn’t have the kind of campy fun of Rock of Ages and it doesn’t use the music as well as Ray. One could argue that maybe The Four Seasons’ brand of pop-rock is just not my thing (and it probably isn’t) but I also think the movie bears some responsibility for not showcasing in an appealing fashion its best feature, the music.
I feel safe blaming the movie for this because of all the other things it does badly: aforementioned special effects involving anybody doing anything in a car, the very spotty acting on the part of everybody, the very stagy make-up that ages the band members as time goes on, the even stagier dialogue. Maybe this much bigness of performance is necessary in a live theatrical performance of Jersey Boys, but here it comes off as cartoony. And because the movie fails on these levels, I won’t even nitpick the moments when it tips into actual offensiveness with its use of stereotypes.
And then there’s Frankie Valli. John Lloyd Young, who played the role on Broadway, has a good voice but something about the performance (or perhaps the way the character is written) causes a clash between the optimism we’re expecting from the character and the general Charlie-Brown-ish mope of the character on the screen. At the very end of the movie, Frankie says something to the effect of how great every stage of his career was. Really, I thought, was it great? I remember scenes of him not getting along with his wife, not getting along with his band members, struggling to help his children, but I do not remember a lot of “great.” 
Jersey Boys might offer fans of The Four Seasons a nice bit of nostalgia but I don’t think it has the joy or the energy to entice or entertain those who don’t already own an album or two. C-
Rated R for language throughout. Directed by Clint Eastwood with a screenplay by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (from a musical book by Brickman & Elice), Jersey Boys is distributed by Warner Bros. and is two hours and 14 minutes long. 





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