Kudos to 84 year old Clint Eastwood- still trying new things. “Jersey Boys” is Clint Eastwood’s first musical. Other than an effortless Christopher Walken (as a mob boss) Eastwood intentionally cast movie unknowns. John Llyod Young reprises his Broadway Tony-award winning role as Frankie Valli. It’s incredible how much he sounds like Vali. Two other members of the Four Seasons come from the national tours: Michael Lomenda and Erich Bergen. Vincent Piazza of “Boardwalk Empire” plays firebrand and low-level mobster Tommy DeVito, the founder of the group. The movie is almost as much about him as Frankie Valli.
Playing at times like a “Behind The Music” episode, the film follows the guys from the wrong side of the tracks of Belleville, New Jersey who formed the iconic 60’s group. As in the Broadway show, the characters, at times, break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience , telling their version of the story.
Unlike most musicals, the characters don’t just break out randomly in song and dance- until the closing credits which are a MUST – if only for the pleasure of watching the graceful dance moves of Christopher Walken. The Four Seasons music is played out organically in scenes from recording sessions and concerts. That’s a refreshing change from most movie musicals.
Still, the movie has the feel of a theater show brought to screen, rather than a screen interpretation . It feels like a caricature at times. The early scenes, especially, lack energy and feel cartoonish and stilted.
What’s great is the music and especially the talent of John Lloyd Young. If you can’t see the show, by all means, see the movie. The story alone will be a surprise to most. But be prepared to invest some time. It runs almost 2-and-a-quarter hours.