During the early 2000’s we saw the return to glory of the movie musically, with such well loved films as Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Since then we have had a number of other really good movie musicals such as Dream Girls and Hairspray.
The format of how to make these films work was written and, if followed, it wasn’t too hard to make a successful and fun movie musical. I guess nobody told Clint Eastwood these facts because his remake of the smash Broadway musical Jersey Boys, about the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is a dull and often times boring movie musical, that can’t really tell if it wants to be a bio-pic or a musical.
The problem with the first one is that the story is just not as interesting as they make it seem. Its your basic rags to riches story, the same one we have seen over and over, where the poor boys become stars and then let greed, money and lust come between them, only to have one final hurrah at the end.
The movie takes place in the 1950’s New Jersey were we get introduced to the Boys when they are young, troublesome teenagers, doing anything to make some quick cash to help push their music careers along. Luckily for them they happened to have wonderful singing voices and through luck (and actor Joe Pesci) they are able to connect with each other and form what would become one of the greatest pop bands of all time.
We follow the boys from the start of their career as back up singers for much larger acts, to finally becoming their own solo act and of course writing some of the most recognized pop classics of all time. Of course with money and fame comes issues and the boys go through a series of events that include marriages gone wrong, spending money they just don’t have, fights amongst themselves and even deaths. We finally ended up with the groups induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, where they of course gave one more fantastic performance for the ages.
The problem with the movie is its pacing and length. It is 2 hours and 15 mins long yet everything is just rushed over and their is never any real development of the supporting characters.
For instance we see one scene were a young Frankie goes on a date with a much older sexy lady, and she kisses him. The next shot is them getting married with no insight to how they got to this stage or why. The whole movie plays like that and for an over two hour film, that makes for some completely boring scenes throughout. This format would have worked much better for a 90 min film.
The acting is just dull to me and none of the boys played by Vincent Piazza (Tommy), Michael Lomenda (Nick), Erich Bergen (Bob) and John Lloyd Young (Frankie), really stand out, when they are not singing which is a bit disappointing considering each actor was part of the Broadway production. Christopher Walken has a supporting turn that adds a much needed punch to the movie and anytime he shows up he steals the scene away from anyone else around him.
When the Boys are singing its a whole different issue, the actors are alive and filled with passion and their voices are just wonderful. When one song ends you can’t wait for the next one to begin … but of course you do have to wait and that is what makes Jersey Boys such a chore to sit through.
I am sure a much more enjoyable film could be made from the subject matter and if the length was shortened and the musical numbers were the true star of the show, I think you could have another Chicago (a film well loved by all … but not me) on your hands.
Clint Eastwood was not the right choice to direct this film. He is to much of an old school guy and lacks the knowledge of how to make a movie musical pop with paparazzi and glamour, as say someone like Rob Marshall. The way the movie is filmed, with characters breaking the forth wall and talking right into the camera may have been perfect for the stage but really takes away from the film here and Eastwood seems to be filming the movie like it is a musical for the stage and it is distracting and really takes away from the moments.
The film comes to life right at the end with a fantastic musical number were Young really comes to life and shows what potential this film truly had. Had the rest of the movie been like that, we wouldn’t have been left with such a boring and overly long remake of Jersey Boys.