What a lady, what a night! This week, Peter Travers highlights Jersey Boys, the inevitable big screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. While the show has been a triumph for nearly a decade, bringing the hip-shaking, finger-snapping heat of the early Sixties to the stage, the film’s director — Clint Eastwood, of all people — goes in a completely different direction, and the results, according to Travers, aren’t so hot.
For those a little rusty on their rock and roll history, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were the biggest pop group before the Beatles took the world by storm. While the stage show brings a Broadway flash to their story and hits like “Sherry” and “1963 (What A Night),” Eastwood tells a grittier tale, which Travers likens to Goodfellas.
Indeed, in their early days Valli and his cohorts were small time crooks who had connections to the mob through their friend Joe Pesci — yup, the very one who starred in Goodfellas — but they ended up superstars instead of street kings. While Jersey Boys attempts to tell that story, Travers says it’s unfortunately bogged down by the familiar, Behind the Music fare.
“My hope was that in doing this kind of Goodfellas sing-along, Clint Eastwood would get a little more into the story that we don’t see in the stage show. But he doesn’t,” Travers says. “It’s flat, it feels diluted, you don’t get that ‘boom boom boom — smash’ that you want.”
While Travers praises the director for tapping the original Broadway show’s cast for the film, including Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli, it’s not the piece of summer escapism he’d hoped for. Instead, Travers says, Jersey Boys is a “serious, heavy-handed, slow, slogging thing, when it should be finger-snapping flash.”