"}
Film

Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood’s jukebox musical

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Almost everyone I know with living parents has gotten the phone call where Mom asks, “Have you seen The Jersey Boys? Your father and I went last night, and we loved it.”

If you’re a fan of harmonic 1960s pop, or cars with fins, Jersey Boys will provide a nice evening out at the movies. It’s nice. It’s entertaining. It’s pleasant. It’s all the positive adjectives that mean “not terrible, but ultimately negligible.”

Clint Eastwood directs the film adaptation of the global stage hit, and the movie fulfills the duties of a jukebox musical: it works in the hits, and it casts singers who make those hits sound virtually identical to the original versions. What the movie doesn’t do is answer the question, “Why did I just spend 134 minutes watching the Frankie Valli episode of Behind the Music?”

It doesn’t help that the rougher edges of the story are sanded down whenever possible: We’re informed immediately by group founder Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) that he and Frankie (John Lloyd Young) had mob ties, although it’s really Tommy who’s more connected, since he’s an errand boy for local made man Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).

Tommy is the driving force behind the band, but he’s also a hothead who gets deeply into debt with loansharks when he’s not going to jail for petty offenses. There are actors out there who could effectively portray a genuine menace while also singing four-part harmony, but Piazza isn’t one of them. He’s credible as a musician, but never as threatening as Norm Waxman (Donnie Kehr), Tommy’s loanshark. The film’s other mobsters, Walken included, come off innocuously, as if to say, “Hey, these guys had mob ties, but not, you know, the bad kind.”

The trajectory of the Four Seasons is one we know from a million rock biopics—the struggle to get signed, early success, infighting, familial strife, bridge, chorus. Screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, adapting their book of the stage musical, keep things moving along, even interjecting odd humor at places, but they wage an uphill battle against genre conventions.

Sometimes the clichés are knowingly funny, like when the group gets its name from the neon advertisement for a bowling alley, and someone says, “It’s a sign!” But then you get songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) watching Ace in the Hole on TV with lyricist-producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle); when Kirk Douglas slaps Jan Sterling in the Billy Wilder movie, Crewe comments, “Big girls don’t cry,” and Eastwood does everything but insert a lightbulb going off over Gaudio’s head.

The performances are mostly engaging, from Walken’s laid-back Mafioso to Young’s earnest Valli to Doyle’s showy turn as the openly gay Crewe, in a performance that resides perilously on the border (without tipping over) between flamboyantly tongue-in-cheek and ridiculously caricatured.

The hits—including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” among many others—inject some dazzle into the proceedings, and they’re mostly presented as performance pieces when the band is touring, recording, or appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The one attempt to work a song into the plot falls flat; Valli sings “My Eyes Adored You” to his young daughter Francine, and the song is reprised later as the theme to their fractured relationship. It’s forgivable that the tune pops up in the 1960s (even though it wasn’t released until 1975), but a song about a childhood crush sounds creepy when it’s a dad singing it to his child, particularly since they leave in the “Though I never laid a hand on you” line. One would have assumed you didn’t.

There’s an airlessness about Jersey Boys, mainly in that Eastwood and the writers never seem particularly interested in reflecting the group against the context of their times. We never hear about the decade’s controversies or newsworthy incidents, or the other groups competing against the Four Seasons for pop supremacy, or anything else outside of the bubble of their lives. As such, the movie never really makes a case for the Four Seasons being important enough to merit big-screen treatment in the first place.

Not that this historical vacuum has kept the show from filling theaters from Broadway to Vegas and beyond, nor will it keep its core audience from a nice, pleasant, entertaining time at the movies. Those more inclined to think of the Four Seasons as a Vivaldi piece or a luxury hotel chain may remain unconvinced.

Ticket Cascadia
More Film...
Doctober
Handling the truth

By now, everyone knows that when I’m not executing my Cascadia Weekly duties, I’m moonlighting as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center.

While the Pickford is currently offering its customary selection of top-notch indie movies, behind the scenes, all conversation revolves…

more »
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Events
Today
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Run Like a Girl

8:00am|Fairhaven Park

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Cabbage Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Healthcare Film

9:30am|Bellingham Public Library

Fermentation Fun

10:00am|Blaine Library

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Birding Walk

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Film is Truth Anniversary Party

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Porpathon

10:00am|Salish Sea

Buddy Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photos Opening

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Banned Books Week Read-In

12:30pm|Village Books

Intro to NaNoWriMo

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Artist Lecture

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Matched Makers Opening

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Timber Rose

2:00pm|North Fork Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Blessing of the Animals

3:30pm|Cornwall Park

Poetry Palavers

4:00pm|Village Books

Matzke Art Auction

5:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Edison Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Celebrating Jack Prelutsky

5:30pm|Western Library

USA Dance

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Fred Morrison

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

The Aimees

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

George Winston

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Folk Dance Party

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Bellingham Chamber Music Society

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MBT Wynton Marsalis Artifacts Wine Bar
Tomorrow
The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Community Breakfast

8:00am|Rome Grange

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Fueling Education Fun Run

9:30am|Washington Park

Sunday Market

1:00pm|Alger Community Hall

Walk the Wall

1:30pm|Lake Padden

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

2:00pm|Lake Padden Park

Sunday Night Fusion

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Bruce Molsky

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

White Christmas Auditions

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

CW BOB 2016 Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Monday
Handling the truth

9:35pm

White Christmas Auditions

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The Land That Remains

3:00pm|Perry and Carlson Gallery

Educators Afternoon Social

3:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Raw Desserts

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Pumpkin Particulars

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Selector Dub Narcotic

8:00pm|Bellingham Alternative Library

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

MBT Wynton Marsalis Zoots Side Bar Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Everybody’s Store Bellingham Farmer’s Market Artifacts Wine Bar CW BOB 2016 Village Books Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab Swinomish 2016