Director Clint Eastwood finds complete harmony with "Jersey Boys," a stellar big-screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical about remarkable career of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
More a music biopic than movie musical where characters spontaneously break out into song, the film is naturally packed with all the great songs the group is associated with, but also brings to the fore a fascinating character study of the four scrappy singers from New Jersey. All while producing such classics as "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" and "Walk Like a Man," the film is a fascinating trip through the triumph and turmoil as The Four Seasons went on to become one of most successful singing groups in pop music history.
Eastwood presents the boys from Jersey warts-and-all in the film, from their humble beginnings in New Jersey and the group's ties with the local mob and their own scrapes with law, to the heartbreaking effects fame brought to their personal and professional lives. From a nostalgic point of view, it's thrilling to watch the serendipitous moments surrounding the group unfold, as well as the recreations of the music featuring Valli's unmistakable falsetto voice.
It also delves into the deeply personal in-fighting in the group, especially between Valli (John Lloyd Young) and co-founder Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), after Tommy tests the limits of their familial-like bond when he falls headlong into the pitfalls of fame.
No stranger to music, Eastwood – who directed "Bird" and is an accomplished musician and composer – strikes the right balance between music and the story in "Jersey Boys," as the film sprawls decades throughout the group's career and culminates with their original members' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
He also should be lauded for his casting decisions. To start with, it's such a tremendous breath of fresh air to see stage veteran like Young being awarded with the role (he scored a Tony for playing Valli in the original Broadway) because he's the best person for the part, instead of a Zac Efron or – God forbid – Justin Bieber in an effort to pander to a younger demographic.
The casting, in fact, is brilliant all around, from Young and Piazza, to "Jersey Boys" stage vets Erich Bergen as songwriter/keyboardist Bob Guadio, and Michael Lomenda as bassist/vocal arranger Nick Massi. Mike Doyle is a hoot in the pivotal role as the group's producer and Guadio's co-songwriter Bob Crewe, and Christopher Walken chews up the scenery as Gyp DeCarlo, a Jersey mob boss who loyally watches out for the group.
Sorry, "Saturday Night Live" lovers, Walken doesn't ask for "more cowbell" (probably because the music of The Four Seasons doesn't need it).
Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. He annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for BringMeTheNews, “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Twin Cities radio stations.