"Jersey Boys" review: Eastwood's morbid version of a musical

“Jersey Boys”, a film adaptation of the original 2005 Broadway hit of the same name, could possibly be one of the greatest movies to see with your grandparents this year. 

Essentially, it's a “Dreamgirls”-“Goodfellas” combo with the well-known Clint Eastwood grayscale and curious morbidity. Perhaps it was Eastwood’s lack of understanding for musical flare or the use of every showbiz cliche in the book that put “Jersey Boys” in fourth place over the weekend, surpassed by sequels “Think Like a Man Too”, “22 Jump Street” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2”.

After all of the Tony awards “Jersey Boys” took home after the show toured the U.S. and various parts of the globe, did it really need to be made into a movie? The film was all the hit musical numbers without the exiting company dance routines. That is, except for the slightly awkward and out-of-place musical-style finale during the end credits.

There's no question that John Lloyd Young, the original Frankie Valli actor and Tony award winner from the original show, still has that nasally Valli voice that captivated audiences world-wide. His performance was more than some recycled rehashing of classic oldies and an exact impersonation, but rather transcended into a different, bewitching character of his own.

He is joined by Vincent Piazza, also known as “Lucky Luciano” on the HBO hit series “Boardwalk Empire”, who is trading in his revolver for a few snaps and a guitar. Piazza plays the band member Tommy DeVito, still the same irritating dirt-bag New Jersey bully from HBO, just with a few more laughs. Piazza narrates the story’s beginning with a fast-paced Jersey-Italian tone nodding to Joe Pesci’s performance in “Casino”. It was just as annoying as well.

Playing the band’s base Nick Massi and 'Ringo’ member is Michael Lomenda. This is the first film appearance for Lomenda, and may or may not be his last. With his primary purpose being comic relief, Lomenda’s character proved to be just about as superfluous as he calls himself.

And who could forget the random fact trivia dropped on the audience when Joe Pesci shows up, played by Joseph Russo, and introduces the band to their song-writer, Bob Gaudio. What the odds are that the guy from “Home Alone” and “Goodfellas” grew up in the same town as The Four Seasons cast and introduced them to a crucial band member?

The band’s songwriter and later the musical’s song writer was played by Eric Bergen, another unknown actor who, however, proves himself to be quite a delightful tenor.

Christopher Walken helped move the plot along by vetting the same-old neighborhood Don, mob-boss guy with familiar rich, calming round vocal tones. Surprisingly, his character Gyp DeCarlo came off as perhaps one of the most non-threatening, cool-headed, negotiable mob bosses ever witnessed on screen. Quite a change from Walken's earlier gangsters, remember the psychotic orphan-burner Hickey from "Last Man Standing"?

Hearing that sound, “their sound” as it is often referred to in the film, does send chills rushing up your sleeves. It's that cool reminder of the doo-op age and those carefree songs from your childhood.

Music from The Four Seasons has percolated down through the decades into the popular culture in which our generation evolved.

For the 90’s kids who wore out the band on the VCR tapes watching “Mrs. Doubtfire”, we laughed as Robin Williams fought off a mugger to “Walk Like a Man” dressed in an old woman body suit.

For those of us still hanging on to Heath Ledger in his younger years, his epically romantic belting of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” to Julia Stiles in “10Things I Hate About You” is a forever cherished cinema moment.

And who could forget their first hit “Sherri”? The song, originally titled “Hey Jackie!” referring to Jackie Kennedy, was inspired by Bruce Channel’s 1961 hit “Hey Babe!”, a memorable song referenced in “Dirty Dancing” 1987.

The Four Seasons have their due credit for influencing pop culture today and Bob Gaudio’s Broadway musical of the same name is an honorable tribute. Sadly though, the film came off as a tad boring.

The multiple narrator perspectives made for an interesting set-up, but it ends up disappearing somewhere in the middle and then randomly shows up at the end to tie up the loose ends.

Though I’m sure Clint Eastwood enjoys musicals, he was really missing the brightness and laughter of previous film musicals like “Cabaret” and “Chicago”.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a true Eastwood film without shades of tragedy.

Most of the beautiful shots were focussed on a funeral scene and multiple shots of a heavily depressed Young in a coffee shop, lamenting the death of his daughter. It was hard to tell if the movie was really ever going to pick up again until Young swooped in and saved the day with his performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, the song that revived Valli in the late 60’s.

While it was a fun classic hits from the 60’s revival, the “Jersey Boys” transfer from the lively stage performance to the screen was not much to write home about.