HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Jersey Boys
HTS Overall Score:72
Clint Eastwood is an immediate plus in my book, and I don’t care whether he’s behind the camera or in front if it as the man is usually gold. That squinty eyed man grew from a spaghetti western actor to a man who really knows how to direct. The only problem is, I don’t think that the toe tapping, sidesplitting, pop culture Broadway show “Jersey Boys” is really the man’s forte. Clint has a love for music, Jazz in particular, and it seeps into many of his movies, but the change to a comedic take on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons puzzles me. The original play is hilarious, keeping a proper mix of comedic elements and the serious over the top nature of the band’s rise to fame and subsequent unraveling after a short burst of star power. Clint is a master of gritty and dramatic, and the two different takes on the source material is a bit grating and makes one raise that eyebrow up one notch during the viewing, trying to place the finger on just WHAT is not striking home.
We all know the Four Seasons, and Frankie Valli’s incredibly doctored falsetto, which created the timeless hits “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and countless others. Here we have a Broadway musical script turned into a feature film some rather mixed results. Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) breaks the fourth wall right off, introducing us to New Jersey in the 50s. He and his brother Nicky (Johnny Cannizzaro) are in a trio with childhood friend Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), making ends meet playing local night clubs. Realizing they aren’t exactly going to be making it big time with their combined talents, they rope in the local barber’s son, one Frankie Valli, who has an amazing falsetto voice that can bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your lips. From there it’s all uphill, and after a stint in the slammer for cheap thuggery, Tommy, Nick and Frankie rope in a wet behind the ears Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to act as the start of new band. Valli has the voice, Tommy the Mob connections, Bob can write songs like you wouldn’t believe and Nick is the friend.
Calling themselves “The Four Lovers” the boys try their best to get noticed, but no one will sign them or give them a chance till producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) gives them the foot in the door they need. From there they fine tune the vocals and retune Frankie’s famous falsetto to create that unique “Four Season’s” vibe and they’re off making millions with hit after hit. Unfortunately the music industry is fraught with intrigue, back stabbing, money problems and of course, the mob. It’s not long before the band’s bright star starts to dim as controversy among the members start to eat away at the cohesion of the unit with Tommy being just a BIT too loose with the money. Growing up in Jersey with Mob connections the boys got their starts being juvenile delinquents, but Tommy couldn’t let go of the lifestyle and has gotten them in over their heads financially. This soon spirals out of the control until the only thing left of the band is Bob and Ricky, with Tommy out the door and Nick just sick and tired of the drama.
Saddled with the debt Tommy racked up, he spends the next few years touring himself into the ground just trying to make the money to bail out his lifelong friend. The lifestyle soon saps him of his marriage, his daughter’s life, and even friends that he grew up with, leaving Frankie Valli doing what he does best “Like that bunny on TV, it just keeps going and going and going. Chasing the music. Trying to find our way home.”
I had to evaluate this movie on a twofold basis. On one hand I had to evaluate it as a standalone movie, and on the other hand I had to evaluate it as a Tony award winning Broadway musical that was translated to film. As a film, it was actually pretty well done, but as an adaptation of the musical, the movie just failed to gain complete traction. Clint does a fantastic job with dramas, giving them a raw and gritty feel that is masterfully paced and full of tension that you can cut with a knife. Same thing goes for “Jersey Boys”, as the film looks, sounds and tastes all of the above. The direction was superb, camera work was excellent and the drama was palpable, but the problem is that the play wasn’t raw and gritty. It had its fair share of drama and seriousness, but it’s full of comedy and over the top, outlandish sequences. The change from the tone of the play to Clint’s take on the material leaves you scratching your head trying to put your finger on the problem. On one hand you have an excellent movie with great acting and lots of heart, but at the same time Eastwood tried to incorporate the 4th wall breaking narration that worked in the musical, and it’s a clear sign that it isn’t translating to film. While the quirky feature of having each of the four members narrate straight to the audience works incredibly well on stage, it just seems out of place in a film where the actors are screaming at each one moment over money squabbles and then turn to face the audience for a monologue.
Acting wise I couldn’t be more pleased. John Loyd Young dominates every moment as Frankie, owning the character heart and soul. Vincent Piazza is spot on perfect playing the thuggish Tommy DeVito, and Christopher Walken as the old gangster can’t be beat. I mean, come on, when does Christopher Walken EVER disappoint? Really? The rest of the cast does a fantastic job at selling the fact that the movie takes places mainly during the 50’s and 60’s and the period costumes are amazing. Clint Eastwood has an impeccable eye for detail in his movies, and the costuming, the accents, the hair, it all just reeks of that ability. As much as I don’t think that Mr. Eastwood was the right director for the job, I do have to say that he gave it the old college try and while it’s not a fantastic hit, he made a rather mesmerizing drama that tries it’s best to pay homage to a pop/rock legend in a style that only a the man with no name can do.
Rated R for language throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=32817[/img]“Jersey Boys” comes to Blu-ray with a rather desaturated image that tries to imitate the old 50’s to a T. Clint Eastwood loves that desaturated look, with muted colors and a nice teal and grey look. It’s reminiscent of “Mystic River” and while it doesn’t scream “oh my goodness, I look AAMMAZING!” it is actually quite strong. As said, colors are a bit mute and desaturated, giving the skin tones a decidedly pasty look, but the crisp and pastel colors like the pink of the old Cadillac, or the blue on Frankie’s outfit is perfectly replicated. Compared to the bright and luscious stage production, the image was a bit of a shock, but encode wise, I really have nothing to complain about. Detail is exceptional, and even with some softness shows a lot of facial nuances. Black levels stay strong and are nothing to be ashamed about. The movie is shot stylistically, but done so by a master hand so the results may not be demo worthy, but it is very true to the source.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=32825[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a bit wonky, with some great use of the surround channels and some excellent directionality to the track, but with a large disparity on the balance between the music and the dialogue. The dialogue is crystal clear and well mastered, but when the famous “Four Season” songs kick off they almost blast you out of your seat, so when you adjust the volume to the proper song level and it switches back to the vocals you’re left struggling to hear the voices once more unless your hand is on the volume control. LFE is quite nice, adding some oomph to the songs and really filling out the bottom end for a few scenes, especially the opening sequence where Frankie and Tommy knock over a stores safe and try to drive away with it in the trunk.
• From Broadway To The Big Screen
• Too Good To Be True
• “Oh, What A Night” To Remember
The stage production and the film are two completely different animals and it shows. Eastwood’s adaptation is a bit too stiff and dry for my tastes, taking things a bit too literally from the script and leaving out the absurdity and fun that was present in the Broadway show. It was a good effort from a great director, but for once I actually have to say that he was a bit out of his league and the results are just a bit too stiff for comfort. I enjoyed it for what it was, but would have to say that it’s best left as a rental.
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda,
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 134 Minutes
Own “Jersey Boys” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on November 11th
Buy Jersey Boys Blu-ray on Amazon
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