Movie Review: “Jersey Boys”

ImageWhatever charms turned the musical “Jersey Boys” into a Tony winning Broadway hit are sorely missed in Clint Eastwood’s tone deaf corpse of a movie. Late to the game, blandly cast and scripted with every Italian American cliche in the “How to Make Spaghetti” cookbook, it is Eastwood’s worst film as a director.
And it does Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons no great favors either, overselling their cultural significance, rendering their story in broad, tried and trite strokes.
“Jersey Boys” follows little Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young), son of a New Jersey barber, from his teens, training to follow in dad’s footsteps. But all the Italian-Americans in Belleville see bigger things for Frankie — whose voice could make him “bigger than Sinatra.”
If only he can get a break. If only he can stay out of trouble with his musician pal, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), a “two-bit hustler” who does break-ins and “fell off truck” thefts in between gigs.
Frankie is the gang’s look-out, signalling that the cops are coming by screeching “Silhouettes,” the doo-wop hit by The Rays.
Since this happens in 1951 and the song didn’t come out until 1957, that Frankie was plainly ahead of his time. Or Eastwood has turned careless with the details, like a little old man whose every article of clothing, from shirt to shoes, now fastens with Velcro.
The story arc — struggles to get a record deal, inspiration in the studio, breaking out on radio, then money troubles, internal strife, tragedy, etc. — is so over familiar that it lacks a single surprise. Recycling that corny DJ locks himself in the studio playing their first hit over and over again until the cops break down the door? “The Buddy Holly Story” did it better back when Gary Busey was thin.
Members of the group turn, mid-scene (mid-concert, sometimes) to the camera and narrate their story — Tommy, Frankie, Nick ( Michael Lomenda) and songwriting singer Bob Guadio (Erich Bergen). Characters talk with their hands, say “Hand to GOD” a lot and slip from English to Italian the way such characters did in Italian-American sitcoms of the last century.
But the music? Removed from their era, Valli’s adenoidal falsetto evokes a giggle, on first hearing. Try to listen to “Sherry,” the group’s screeching first hit, without laughing. But his range was always impressive, as was their longevity — 29 Top 40 hits spanning three decades.
The musical mixes up the songs’ order and exposes the tunes’ limitations. “My Eyes Adored You”, where the line “though I never laid a hand on you” was always creepy, gets turned into a lullaby Frankie sings to his little girl. And turns even creepier when it does.
The Eastwood film exposes the play’s antecedents. It is structured like “Mamma Mia!”, with hints of their most famous and recent hit, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” book-ending the “Buddy Holly Without the Plane Crash Story” plot.
Piazza, playing the annoying, overbearing goombah DeVito, is the only member of the group to make an impression. Christopher Walken, playing the benign (of course) mobster who watches over Frankie, is given little to do. Only Renee Marino, as the Italian spitfire who became Frankie’s first wife, threatens to animate this picture and give it the acting jolt it needs. But doesn’t.
“Jersey Boys” is such a poor reflection of Eastwood’s best work that that just when you think, “At least the musician in him does justice to the songs,” there’s a botched horn arrangement in “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” Just when you think, “Well, there’s a big ensemble dance number coming, and he cast Christopher Walken,” he misses getting the famed dance man in the shot.
So the guy who made “Bird” has made the worst screen musical since “Rock of Ages.” And it’s little comfort knowing this won’t be his last film, or how he’s remembered. It just makes you fear he’ll end his directing career on an even worse note, 2015’s “American Sniper.”
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Renee Marino, Christopher Walken, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda
Credits: Directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise, based on their stage musical. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 2:17

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Movie Review: “Jersey Boys”

  1. JJ says:

    Whenever I am feeling too happy I read a Roger Moore review. You can always count on him to crap all over everything. But that makes sense because it gives you an idea where ALL of his taste is.

  2. Jan Parsons says:

    Roger Moore is a poor excuse to be rating “JerseyBoys”! For those of us who grew up with their music we have great memories-who does he think he is to tell us about The Four Seasons-Your dumb and inept revue isn’t worth reading

  3. Tom Borchardt says:

    This “reviewer”.. Has not seen the play anywhere in the world..does not seem to know anything about stage, screen , or music…in fact he cannot even spell Frankie Valli’s name correctly… No one is saying the Four Seasons did anything to change the world…but the sales of 175 million records…over a billion in ticket sales for the show and the fact that 50 years later Frankie Valli is still selling out concerts and we are still talking about the group ..would seen be make them relevant…Lots of people who see Jersey Boys do not know anything about Valli or the group and none of them are giggling or laughing at hearing Sherry.. Most are cheering and singing along…………again the ” reviewer ” shows complete ignorance of the subject matter..

    • “Cannot spell Frankie Valli’s name”? Which version, the original or the stage name? Did I leave out a vowel? Easy to do with Italians, yes?
      And I cannot explain how audiences in the ’50s did not howl at the effeminate castrato screeching of “Sherry Baby.” By the time Oldies Radio became a big deal in the ’70s, people in my generation did.

  4. Frank Gallo says:

    There have been worse Eastwood movies for sure. The attitude of this writer is one of supreme arrogance, which is surprising when one considers the pedestrian writing. Geez this review is dire. Ever try selling lemonade on a street corner?

  5. schnoz says:

    Just saw it and completely agree with your review.

  6. joe brinkman says:

    When mr. Moore said frankie sang my eyes adored you to his daughter,he was on the other side of the country the day she was born. so could not have laid a hand on her,I.e. could not hold her in his arms,but could only adore her from afar. That’s not creepy unless you’re mind is in the gutter. You’re review made me feel sad for you to make something innocent &beautifull just creepy.I usually agree with most of your reviews but this one was just sad. Thank you joe brinkman

    • The song itself is CREEPY. Was creepy, from the day it came out. Odd, dissonant lyric that takes you out of it. You’d have to be pretty thick to not get that. So take a bow, Joe Brinkman.

  7. I just could not figure out Roger Moore’s review of Jersey Boys. But It occurred to me he does not agree with Clint Eastwood’s conservative political views.

    • First Eastwood movie I’ve ever trashed. Long overdue. Cut him slack so long he thought talking to empty chairs was funny. As, apparently, did you. And since most critics panned the film, go find some other lie to hang your bad taste on.

    • joe brinkman says:

      the movie was not intended to be movie version of the musical,just a history of the jersey boys struggles.

  8. Judy says:

    Roger Moore is an idiot. First time I’ve seen a standing ovation at the end of a movie. It was fabulous…..what a dumb review. Find another line of work.

    • “Idiot” is a great word for people who give “standing ovations” at movies. Without the stars or director present. Especially bad movies. It is reaching an audience that doesn’t get out much (but not many of them, it’s kind of a dud, and not just with critics). So good on Warners for trying. It didn’t work.
      And Judy, you almost certainly hear this at home all the time, but it bears repeating. Nobody cares what you think.

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