Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Jersey Boys

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Here's the thing: "Jersey Boys" is neither one of Clint Eastwood's better films from the past decade nor is it among the most compelling music bio pics - and yet, the picture is still pretty fun.

Eastwood had been on a role, beginning in 2003 with his remarkable "Mystic River," which he followed up with one great movie after another - "Million Dollar Baby," "Flags Of Our Fathers," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Changeling" and "Gran Torino." These were then followed by "Hereafter," "Invictus," "J. Hoover" and, now, "Jersey Boys," which is probably the least of the entire bunch.

Based on the popular Broadway musical, the film tells the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who grew up in New Jersey, nearly became mobbed up and eventually broke through to fame and stardom.

"Jersey Boys" tells your standard music bio movie - humble beginnings, first signs of success, a break through, infighting between band members, major stardom and then a descent typically due to drugs, but in this case as a result of one of the band's members, Tommy (Vincent Piazza), finding himself in debt to some mob types and Valli's familial issues.

Although the material has been seen time and time again, the actors here mostly make it work. John Lloyd Young gives Valli some heart and soul, while Piazza - the most interesting character on display here - delivers as the troubled Tommy DeVito. And Christopher Walken gives it his typical best as a surprisingly good natured gangster who takes Valli under his wing.

Similar to many other films of its type, "Jersey Boys" plays like a jukebox of familiar tunes - "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," "Big Girls Don't Cry," etc., and the story gives each one a slight back story.

The funny thing about the film is that it is at its most interesting when the boys are dealing with their real life problems - namely, their early days running around with criminals and Valli's troubled daughter, rather than when they become superstars. And in most Eastwood films, you can recognize the director's touch, but here it is a little less present.

Regardless, "Jersey Boys" is amusing enough, funny when it needs to be and energetic. It may not be as great as some of Eastwood's best of recent years and it does nothing in the way of reinventing its genre, but it's a likable movie and one of the few currently in mainstream theaters that is aimed at adults.

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