Jersey Boys

Directed By: Clint Eastwood

Starring: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, and Christopher Walken

It suffices to say that talking to an empty chair hasn't exactly paid dividends for American cinema icon Clint Eastwood.  I can say with ease that I lost some respect for Harry the day he got his hands dirty in the game of politics.  The five-time Oscar winner has been relegated to baseball movies like Trouble With the Curve.  Now, the Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven director is taking the helm of Jersey Boys.  Even with the critical failures of Hereafter and J. Edgar, this is a serious downslope for the screen legend.  That empty chair might have been the first sign that he should start considering retirement.  This weekend's Jersey Boys is certainly another.

Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) is here to tell us about how the group known as The Four Seasons came to be.  Founding a musical trio with his brother Nick DeVito (Johnny Cannizzaro) and friend Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), Tommy discovers teenager Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) and shows him the ropes of the music circuit among other things.  Donning himself "Frankie Valli" (with an “I” instead of a “Y”), the teen singer joins Tommy's group and replaces Nick DeVito.  Though in and out of prison for his other activities, Tommy teaches Frankie how to best use his high-pitched voice as well as how to woo the ladies.  Thanks to Tommy, Frankie meets and marries a beautiful woman by the name of Mary Delgado (Renée Marino).

Though the group finds steady gigs at local nightclubs, they're on the road to nowhere.  A Jersey boy by the name of Joe Pesci introduces them to singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) who wants to make it big as well.  Despite Tommy's reluctance, Bob joins the group.  They name themselves "The Four Lovers".  They begin the long hard journey to success.  While working as backup singers for a producer, they change the group's name to "The Four Seasons".  Once they get a chance to record their own music, hits like "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", and "Walk Like a Man" soon follow.  Frankie is at the front and center singing his heart out.  Little does the group know that Tommy's amassing a huge debt with mobster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) and that this will come back to bite them all.  Meanwhile, Frankie and Bob enter into a Jersey contract on the side in which they'll split profits from other activities outside the group.

I remember when Jersey Boys debuted on Broadway back in 2005.  I lived in New Jersey at the time and was a musical aficionado.  Making my way to see the likes of Wicked, The Color Purple, and Rent, I've seen more than my fair share of advertisements for this musical bringing the Four Seasons' journey to the stage.  Having now seen Clint Eastwood's adaptation of it on the big screen, I can happily say that I most likely made the right choice nearly a decade ago.  From a technical perspective, Jersey Boys offers a well-executed period piece with fitting cinematography and set design.  However, Clint Eastwood's take on the Tony Award winner lacks energy or zest.  Failing to draw strong performances from his cast or to engage his audience with classic tunes, Eastwood's foray into the musical genre is a clear misfire.

Eastwood really drops the ball in terms of storytelling.  The plot never jumps from the screenplay to come to life on camera.  Everything feels too underdeveloped and tangential.  I'll take a small example not terribly critical to the overall storyline to minimize spoilers.  Let's go with Frankie's marriage to Mary.  Within a couple of minutes of meeting on screen, they get married.  We don't see Mary for almost another hour.  When she's back they have a fleeting fight and get divorced.  There's a lot missing between points A and Z here.  The choppiness and the lack of continuity in this example are emblematic of the larger problems plaguing Eastwood's Jersey Boys.  The film is entirely too cobbled together.

I'll admit that Jersey Boys is not my cup of tea.  However, I don't think it's anybody's given the film's poor quality.  There is a remedy, however, in the form of tequila slammers.  Jersey Boys gets a wasted rating.