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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 18, 2014

Jersey Boys Movie Review: Clint Eastwood Tries Directing A Broadway Musical

AT 84, two time Oscar best director Clint Eastwood (“Unforgiven”, “Million Dollar Baby”), helms his first musical in “Jersey Boys”, a Broadway hit that’s been on stage since 2005. As an actor, he himself sang in a musical in “Paint Your Wagon”, which we’re sure he’d rather forget. As his Dirty Harry character once said: “We should all know our limitations.”

So he won’t be accused of making a direct stage-to-screen transition of the Broadway musical, Eastwood expanded the original material and the first part became more of a drama, with the musical numbers quite few and far between. There are more lengthy passages of dialogue than production numbers and the result is a palpable lack of energy.

“Jersey Boys” is the story of four young men who are all from New Jersey and how they became the hit boy band of the 60s called Four Seasons (they got their name from a bowling alley). The four men themselves take turns in narrating the story by directly talking to the camera. The main vocalist known for his falsetto stylings is Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young, who played the role originally in Broadway), Today, he’s now 80 years old. The other members are Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), who’s the group’s songwriter. The film shows the real life Joe Pesci (who won the Oscar for “Goodfellas”) had a big hand in how the group was formed before he became an actor himself.

The boys did low-paying gigs, worked us backup singers before they hit it big with their own singles: "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", and "Walk Like a Man." The film chronicles their rise to the top and their eventual breakup mainly because of Tommy who got heavily indebted to a loan shark and the IRS. They’re later shown having a reunion as they’re elevated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

All the four actors in the principal roles do a splendid job, including Christopher Walken as a Mafia godfather who’s Frankie’s biggest fan. We just wish the narrative exposition was more perky, more exuberant. It sometimes get so inert because Eastwood has the tendency to take things so seriously and dwell on too much drama, like the subplot about Frankie’s relationship with his rebellious daughter, Francine. Baby boomers who’re teenagers in the 60s can relate to the songs that were chart toppers that time, but young viewers won’t be familiar with most of the songs the way that they are with the songs of ABBA in “Mamma Mia”.

But there’s no denying that near the end, when Frankie finally sings “You’re Just too Good to be True, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, the movie suddenly jumps to life and this is maintained until the end credits finale that’s like “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire”, with everyone singing and dancing to “Oh What a Night”. Technically, the movie is impeccable. The rich period detail in the costumes and all the production design seems like they used a time machine for a throw back into 50s and the 60s. The film’s look and feel really make it seem like it was filmed during that era.