Published Jun 20, 2014On stage, Jersey Boys is a crowd-pleasing triumph. It's far from being my favourite musical, but the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' rise to fame, and subsequent decline into debt and despair, has been keeping audiences around the world tapping their toes for nearly a decade now. The announcement that the Tony Award-winning musical would be adapted for the screen came as a surprise to no one, but no one could have predicted that director Clint Eastwood would have sucked all of the fun out of the show and turned it into a drab, colourless bore.
Inherently, Jersey Boys is abundant with clichés and tired tropes about young Italian-Americans growing up in rural New Jersey. They're loud; they're obnoxious; and they are always getting themselves into trouble with the law. These stereotypes eventually give way for a whole slew of other ones about bands on the road (drugs, booze, girls, you know the drill). On stage, much of this is forgiven because of the nature of the stage musical; we allow the lack of depth so that we can enjoy the show without having to devote too much thought to it. On film though, with everything magnified in an attempt to maximize our enjoyment, the exaggerated characters are borderline laughable at times. You would think that it would be helpful to have the man who played Valli on Broadway, John Lloyd Young, reprise the role for continuity, but all that does is expose Young's lack of film experience.
Eastwood drapes Jersey Boys in shadows, which only further serves to mute the energy that so many patrons find infectious about the stage production. By the time the band is falling apart, sparks are meant to fly between them, but instead, everything just seems to fizzle out quietly. And while his directorial choices often reveal how disconnected he is from the material, it is his seeming lack of interest in the music itself (the first fully staged musical number doesn't happen until the second hour of the film) that proves his biggest disservice to the legacy of the show and the Four Seasons themselves.