Alexa Certify Code

JERSEY BOYS Movie Review

jersey_boys_movie_posterBy Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

A sloppy, lazy, energy-free back lot production. Everything is wrong except the music. The dreadful “dee’s,” “dem’s” and “does” are as shameful as the clumsy acting. Eastwood proves he has limitations.

The screening here in Las Vegas was a big affair, with the current cast from “Jersey Boys”, now at Paris Las Vegas, doing interviews at the premiere screening at AMC Theaters in Town Square Monday evening. Giving the audience a brief “Hello” was the troublemaking former founding member of The Four Seasons, Tommy DeVito. On Thursday, DeVito was honored with a private screening of the film for his family, friends and celebrity guests – including his longtime friend, the actor Joe Pesci – to celebrate his 86th birthday. Without DeVito, there would be no 2006 Tony Award® for Best Musical win for “Jersey Boys” which has just celebrated its 3,500th performance on Broadway, making it the 13th-longest-running show on the New York stage.

Where was Frankie Valli at the Las Vegas premiere?

jersey1In a 2009 interview with Doug Elfman of the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the musical’s opening at The Palazzo, DeVito said he thinks “Jersey Boys” might not even have had a good plot if he hadn’t been such a rough guy. “I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t care. Let the checks keep comin’. … I never made that kind of money with the Seasons on the road.”

I saw the musical “Jersey Boys” when it began its Las Vegas run at The Palazzo. It is a fantastic musical. Why did the studio give Clint Eastwood the task of making the film adaptation? There is not one bit of creativity or originality in his production. It is as if Eastwood directed JERSEY BOYS in a coma without even bothering to listen to the music.

JERSEY BOYS starts at the very beginning, when Frankie Castelluccio – soon to be rechristened “Valli” (John Lloyd Young), tagging along with his “goombah” Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza). DeVito is the risk-taking, handsome hot head who has a friend – Hand to God – who is a “wise guy”. Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken) looks over him. Tommy is into reselling merchandise that “falls off the back of trucks.”

jersey2Together with Nick (Michael Lomenda) Tommy starts a singing group, soon to include little Frankie and his unique voice. When successful songwriting singer Bob Guadio (Erich Bergen) hears the band, he wants to write for them. However, Guadio knows something about contracts and keeping his songwriting rights. He also demands to become a member of the band.

Indeed, Guadio has proved to be a very smart businessman.

Along the way, the Four Seasons becomes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons after members keep changing and become essentially a backup band for Valli.

Eastwood permits Piazza to go all “Johnny Boy” throughout the film. DeVito, a veteran of Broadwalk Empire, is the only Four Seasons member with TV and film acting experience. He knows he’s got the volatile hair-trigger role and he doesn’t let a moment pass by when he isn’t flagging around. Granted, with the other guys doing background and Frankie a saint, Piazzo is the only one with vitality. But he’s a spinning wheel in a graveyard.

Young does not have the acting skill to be the focal point of a big movie that revolves around him. He tries but he is often left alone in the middle of the ocean without the director there to guide him to shore. Probably Eastwood was concentrating on how to change the music instead of directing the performances. Everyone seems left to do what they want. And that is where an actor like Walken can come in and do some clever scene stealing. Walken uses a silk robe as a prop to keep your eyes on him. I bet his role was bigger but cut and so was his dancing in the faux New Jersey streets.

The hagiography of the Four Seasons is set in stone. DeVito owed loan sharks and the IRS $1.5 million. Apparently he was not only the band’s manager, he was their accountant. Valli decides to take on the debt himself. The band breaks up and Valli goes solo.

The loan sharks did not want a piece of the Four Seasons and DeCarlo did not have the cash to buy the debt and become the new owner of the Four Seasons.

Since Eastwood has always composed the music for his films, he has tinkered with the Four Seasons music. He couldn’t just let it alone. He had to let the audience know that he “enhanced” the compositions by nearly ruining them.

Valli is the only member with a personal life. He had martial problems. With his firecracker of a wife, Mary (Renee Marino), he had three daughters. Estranged from them for many years, Valli finally reunited with his daughter Francine, who mysteriously died from an “unintentional” drug overdose.

“My eyes adored you” written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, always sounded creepy with that line,    ‘Though I never laid a hand on you’ and it still does, even though now it is presented as a song written for Francine and not a childhood girlfriend.

Like the musical, all four members talk to the audience and narrative the film. Thank God, each had a tiny moment of honesty. But all agree, Valli was a saint.

Eastwood then does something unforgiveable. He has a big dance number at the end! He puts our generation’s famed dance master, Christopher Walken, in the corner! In the setting for the movie, this finale is just wrong and a concession to a music video.

Eastwood must have let his many assistant directors direct, or just let every production department do whatever they wanted. Eastwood’s Italians are caricatures, the sets are all cardboard, and the emotions paper-thin. The entire tone has nothing employing the 50s. Apparently, the targeted younger audience would not like the post-Depression Era 50’s look or feel.

If only this was Eastwood’s Swan Song.

Victoria Alexander

Film Critic for FilmsInReview.com, LasVegasInformer.com, and FilmFestivalToday.com

Member of Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

 

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Informer mailing list

Check your email and confirm the subscription