Review Roundup: JERSEY BOYS Hits the Big Screen- UPDATED!
The big screen adaptation of Broadway's Tony Award winning musical JERSEY BOYS will hits theaters today, June 20th. The film follows the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the Tracks who became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were thirty. The show features all their hits including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Oh What A Night," "Walk Like A Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Working My Way Back To You."
JERSEY BOYS was the recipient of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 2009 Olivier Award for Best Musical. The Original Broadway Cast Recording, produced by Bob Gaudio, received the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America(RIAA). The Broadway production also won the 2006 Outer Critics Circle & Drama League Awards for Best Musical.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Jersey Boys" is a strange movie, and it's a Clint Eastwood enterprise, both reasons to see it. For those with a love of doo-wop, it also provides a toe-tapping, ear-worming stroll down rock 'n' roll memory lane that dovetails with that deeply cherished American song and dance about personal triumph over adversity through hard work, tough times and self-sacrifice. It's a redemption narrative that's got a good beat, and you can dance to it.
Mick LaSalle, SFGate: "Jersey Boys" contracts into what it probably always had to be, just a likable and not overly romanticized portrait of the Four Seasons, how they started and where they ended up. But the music maintains an exaggerated appeal throughout. Even if you have never particularly liked these songs, you will like them here.
Andrew Barker, Variety: "...by the time it hits its first real Broadway-style production number over the closing credits, "Jersey Boys" doesn't seem to have gotten any closer to deciding what kind of movie it wants to be. Embracing neither the fizzy energy of a Vegas-ready tuner, nor the grit of a warts-and-all biopic, the film nonetheless has its own peculiar charms, and should be able to capitalize on the source material's enduring popularity for a respectable if modest B.O. haul.
Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post: The movie, like the play, also overstuffs the plot. Valli suffered a harrowing family tragedy that makes its way into the narrative. Yet with so much attention paid to the band and so little to his personal life up until that point, the misfortune feels shoehorned into the story as a way to exhibit the hero hitting rock bottom...Overall though, fans of the play will be pleased.
Richard Corliss, Time: Eastwood doggedly Tracks Frankie's bumpy marriages to local girl Mary (Renée Marino) and journalist Lorraine (Erica Piccininni) and his frayed relationship with daughter Francine (Freya Tingley as a teenager). In an interminable third-act face-off, Gyp presides over the breakup of the band, with each member getting a verbal aria to spill the resentments that have boiled for years. As with so much else in Jersey Boys, they should've been sung.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: Some scenes are frankly theatrical, such as the hardship tour of the famous Brill Building, full of hardened veterans impervious to raw talent. (See "Singin' in the Rain" for an earlier example.) Other segments are stiff Hollywood soundstage artifacts all the way, such as the boys' early smash-and-grab robberies for the local gangsters. Others still are played out more or less realistically, until we're hit with a deliberately fakey bit of rear-projection. Eastwood never pushes his approaches too far in any one direction.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: For the film, the show's original book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have retained their Rashomon-style structure of offering different points of view on events by shifting the narrative voice from one bandmember to another. Eastwood has smoothly incorporated the direct-address technique to the film, something mainstream audiences might now accept more easily than before in the wake of House of Cards.
Robbie Collin, UK Telegraph: The problem is immediately and heartbreakingly apparent. Rather than embracing the jangling song-and-dance numbers that made the live version box-office catnip, Eastwood sheepishly tidies them into the background, treating the project instead like a standard music-industry biopic.
Neil Rosen, NY1: Eastwood sort of sucks the fun out of the film version. He's more concerned with the story, which is sort of a garbled mess at times, with some major details left out and the music often times gets short shrift. Except for a few numbers, most songs are rarely played in their entirety; instead, we're just given snippets. "Jersey Boys," the movie does have some good moments, mainly in the first half. The production design nicely captures the era. Ultimately, though, it's too long and all over the map.
David Edelstein, Vulture: Surprisingly, for a musician, Eastwood doesn't seem interested in where the Four Seasons' sound came from, in the Italian appropriation of African-American doo-wop, in the origin or unique quality of Valli's exhilarating falsetto. You expect a movie - unlike a Broadway show - to give you a little background, context, peripheral hubbub. But if the show didn't show it, Eastwood doesn't either. Narrative chasms, one-note characters, showbiz clichés don't seem to bother him. As long as he can bring the movie in ahead of time and under budget, it's all good.
Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: The screenplay was written by the Broadway show's dynamic duo Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, which may explain why "Jersey Boys" doesn't take better advantage of the movie-making. Aptly if somewhat awkwardly, "Jersey Boys' finds its most soulful moment in a movie version of a curtain call. Only it's pretty complicated when a movie's most rousing moment comes as the closing credits roll.
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent: Eastwood can't escape the clichéd nature of films about bands. Inevitably, there are the years of struggle. Then comes the giddy period of early fame and success. Next follow the recriminations, broken marriages and unpaid tax bills. It's at this point that the band splits up and its members tell each other they won't perform together until hell freezes over. Then, in the final reel, the band is bound to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame amid scenes of semi-sincere reconciliation. You can't blame the screenwriters for following a hackneyed old formula. This is simply the way that it always seems to happen.
Geoff Pevere, Globe and Mail: Of all the obstacles and indignities overcome by the doo-wop-dipped New Jersey quartet the Four Seasons on their way to pop-nostalgic musical immortality, Clint Eastwood's flat-as-a-platter adaptation of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's Broadway jukebox musical-bio must now be counted as another. However, if Frankie Valli's heavenly falsetto can rise above even this sticky cinematic treatment, it truly is an instrument of divine power.
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News: The movie could have paid more attention to the construction of the music, and much less to the embarrassingly underwritten roles of the women in the lives of the band members. There are many shrill interludes of wives and girlfriends throwing furniture, voices building to a falsetto that somehow tops Valli's own.
Nathan Southern, TV Guide: The idea of a musical built around the ensemble's transition from street life to the limelight is not only a fantastic one, but welcome news given the uniqueness of the Seasonsí sound and the longevity of member Bob Gaudio's cunningly written tunes (which still sound great, decades after they first charted). The concept excelled on-stage thanks to playwrights Marshall Brickman (co-writer of Annie Hall) and Rick Elice, and the production went on to win the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical. But the film adaptation -- brought to life by producer Graham King and director Clint Eastwood -- feels laborious, ill-conceived, and woefully overlong at more than two hours.
Christine Dolen, Miami Herald: Eastwood, who makes a period cameo in Jersey Boys via an image from his oldRawhide series on a TV screen, has made a movie that expands on the storytelling that helped set Broadway's Jersey Boys apart from the typical "jukebox" musical. If the film audience doesn't get to experience the thrill of watching the faux Valli and the Seasons sing entire numbers live, well, there's always the next Jersey Boys tour.
Stephen Whitty, Star-Ledger: Of course, the movie is a little long too, and overly reverent. But natives will love the Jersey references (including someone playing Joe Pesci, a DeVito pal and early Four Seasons' booster). And if you stay for the final, closing-credits curtain-call number - and you should - no one will blame you if you join in, just a little.
Photo: Keith Bernstein