At the Movies: Jersey Boys

“Jersey Boys?” What is this Broadway musical doing in my summer movie lineup?

I get my fill of musical theater from The Fox, The Muny and Opera Theatre Saint Louis. Summer movies are supposed to be about superheroes and explosions and giant robots and explosions and monsters and car chases and explosions. You know, my escape valve.

Well, at least “Jersey Boys” is a musical I really like. At least it’s not “Mamma Mia!” And thank God it’s not in 3D.

one movie screening later…

OK, that was very well done. Director Clint Eastwood has taken the popular musical “Jersey Boys” and managed to adapt it to the big screen while hitting all the high notes.

And considering whose story this is, those are high notes indeed.

newjbfilmpixThis biography of the musical group The Four Seasons stars John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli. Frankie has a unique voice that captures the attention of everyone who hears it, including mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). Frankie is taken under the wing of Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), who leads a band that includes Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). The band schedules its gigs around Tommy’s and Nick’s turns in prison.

The band undergoes various name and personnel changes but finally begins to gel when songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) is added to the mix. Bob pens three consecutive No. 1 hits for the quartet and soon they’re skyrocketing to fame.

But as anyone who’s ever watched a music documentary knows, fame isn’t the end of all troubles. For the Four Seasons, those troubles come in the form of gambling and other debts taken on by Tommy. Tommy digs a hole so deep it may not be possible for even Gyp DeCarlo to pull them out.

“Jersey Boys” follows Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from their inception to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The movie seamlessly incorporates the bands hits into the story without trying to make the song lyrics propel the story — a wise decision.

Each band member is given their chance to narrate the film, offering different perspectives to the tale. All the actors do fine work but my favorite has to be  Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi, the quiet one who finally erupts when the truth comes out about Tommy.

Like all behind-the-music tales, “Jersey Boys” has its share of tragedy. But the film is at its most entertaining when it focuses on the fun, high energy times.




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