Written by / 6/24/2014 / No comments / , , ,

CLINT EASTWOOD DIRECTS JERSEY BOYS

year: 2014 rating: **
Based on an immensely popular Broadway musical, JERSEY BOYS, about the rise and fall of the pop band The Four Seasons, although directed by Clint Eastwood, strives for good old fashion Martin Scorsese street savvy charm…Hell, there's even an actor playing a young Joe Pesci...

We begin in the streets of New Jersey through a mugging face-the-camera narration by founding member Tommy DeVito (Joe's name in GOODFELLAS), a two-bit hustler with a scam for just about any occasion. He puts his crooked mind at work and something usually comes of it, even if jail time is part of the deal...

It's through Tommy we learn (and are constantly reminded) that being bad is simply part of the game. And while actor Vincent Piazza does a pretty decent job stealing scenes and just about everything else, he seems very alone in the process...

Soon enough, Tommy has some very important company, leading to the young man of the hour, Frankie Valli, with a voice like a falsetto angel and, with a sneaky devil on his shoulder, Frankie and Tommy have the sort of friendship that leads to predictable trouble...

The two main performances are alright, especially since the actors do their own crooning, but Piazza and John Lloyd Young seem to be going through the motions, as if rehearsing for a much grittier film. And soon enough, they're no longer nobodies: eventually the boys form their own band, first called The Four Lovers and then, after a bowling alley neon inspiration, the Four Seasons are born…

the Real FOUR SEASONS
The transition from working musicians to big stars seems a bit rushed, while their initial climb to the top is a lot more interesting. Beginning as background singers with an itch for their own fame, soon enough their dreams are fully realized. And yet, having a string of back-to-back hit songs, thanks to the much more classy and thoughtful songwriter/keyboardist Bob Guadio, the movie never seems entirely focused on a famous band: The boys are far more comfortable in stolen clothes than when the money rolls in, which is probably intentional. They're Jersey punks no matter how much money is earned...

Although a lot feels held back in this rags to riches tale – the second act plays out more like a daydream than a biopic. And while the poster has the boys singing under a street lamp, we hardly get a glimpse of their unified pre-limelight struggle. 

Famous DEER HUNTER Frankie Valli sing-along
The main problem is the melodramatic side effects occurring as the boys play big bills and make sporadic television appearances. This includes Tommy’s gambling debts, Frankie’s troubled marriage and the ultimate tragedy of losing a kid, all treated in a somewhat breezy, TV soap fashion. Even a pivotal meeting between Christopher Walken's mob boss, a vengeful bookie and the troubled band has no palpable edge...

So right as we’re getting to know The Four Seasons as a solid act, not only are they falling apart at the seams, but there wasn’t enough time centered of their fame to make the inevitable decline really matter. Meanwhile, Tommy’s fourth-wall-breaking narration is replaced with that of good guy bassist Nick and songwriter Bob... yet their casual approach lacks the punch that made Tommy's roguish gab so intriguing. 

Director Clint Eastwood, who provides a unique cameo as RAWHIDE plays on a TV set, awkwardly balances grungy street life with shiny musical numbers. Meanwhile, the legitimately classic Four Seasons songs come and go like the breeze, while the buildup for Valli’s solo/comeback Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is much too grandiose, glorified and anti-climactic for its own right... especially after tweaking the horn section to sound like a Vegas lounge act from hell... What's with the intruding saxophones!?!

Everything gets conveniently summed up with a tacked-on reunion at the 1990 Music Hall of Fame... the actors, wearing aged makeup, seem part of an SNL skit... And we finish with an overlong song & dance routine obviously geared for fans of the Broadway musical, where this particular story is probably much better suited. 
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