Sometimes a story is just too good to screw up. The music of The Four Seasons is of the variety that you can’t help but sing along and tap your feet to it, and their backstage drama is of the sort that inspired intense loyalty and profound resentment in equal measure.
Jersey Boys is a loud, boisterous affair, and it is therefore ideally suited to the stage. I have not seen the original musical version, but I can understand why it has been such a big Broadway hit. The best elements of the film version worked plenty fine on the screen, but I couldn’t help but thinking during each of those moments, “This surely works a lot better on stage.” John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda are uncanny in their channeling of Frankie, Tommy, Bob, and Nick during the musical numbers, but there is an immediacy lacking without the live element. The fourth-wall breaking narration is a strong device, and the fact that each band member takes a turn with the dictation plays into one of the film’s stated themes (“everyone remembers it how they need to, right?”), but there is a potential intimacy to this technique that cannot quite be fully conveyed at the multiplex. There is even an all-cast end credits song-and-dance routine that basically screams “Broadway musical closing number!”
What prevents Jersey Boys from being a classic instead of merely good is the risk-averse style of director Clint Eastwood. Clint is a competent filmmaker: there is nothing in the frame that doesn’t belong there, nor is there a single bad edit. But he is too content to let the story just speak for itself. I think where he truly excels is with more challenging material (such as the racially charged Gran Torino or the underrated, spiritually complicated Hereafter), and the degree of difficulty for Jersey Boys simply wasn’t as high as it needed to be. Its lasting impression is of a great story, but not quite a great filmic experience.
Jersey Boys Review Rating: B
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on a Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.