For the most part, I have a very hard time with Clint Eastwood-directed movies. Not only are they plodding and lacking in quality, but he himself has openly admitted that he doesn’t know how to direct, that he simply hires people that know what they’re doing. Letters from Iwo Jima is the only of his films that I truly love. Each time he releases a movie, I go in with great hope, only to be completely let down. I will not be fooled again. Even after walking into Jersey Boys with low expectation, I still walked out with extreme disappointment. It’s laughably bad and just might be the worst title in his resume.
Made almost-entirely with no-name stage actors, Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and his ’60s pop group, The Four Seasons. Based on the smash hit Broadway play of the same title, the movie is a musical in the sense that it’s filled with scenes of characters performing many numbers from the Four Seasons catalog – in a style exactly like film musicals Inside Llewyn Davis and Once. Nobody breaks out into sponteous simulaneous perfectly choregraphed musical numbers like Across the Universe or Hairspray, nor do they sing-talk through the entire picture, like the dreadful Les Miserables. It’s simply deemed a musical because it’s full of music.
I’ll be blunt. I don’t care about the Four Seasons. I don’t know anyone under 70 who does. And while I’m very familiar with pop music of that era, far too many of the songs that fill Jersey Boys were completely foreign to me. A few of the numbers are pulled off very well, but during most, Frankie Valli actor John Llowyd Young sounds nothing like the real Valli. He sounds (and even looks) like an SNL “actor” playing a charicature of Frankie Valli. (See the image above.) Christopher Walken is the only known actor in the whole movie and he’s also the only one who plays his character consistently and entertainingly.
Another bad aspect of Jersey Boys is the unusually low production quality. The sets look cheap. It’s supposedly set in New Jersey, but obviously shot in California. A post-church wedding scene reveals that San Gabriel mountains in the background. A supposedly winter-time snowy scene set inside a diner reveals the worst fake snowfall happening outside the window. The snow, which I’m almost certain was made of foamy bubbles, falls in giant baseball-size globs while the California sun shines brightly. In the background, green trees can be seen. Have Clint’s 84-year-old eyes completely failed him? And why didn’t anyone tell him how awful the scene looked? So much for surrounding himself with other talented filmmakers that could carry his weight.
Normally, Warner Bros. tries pumping Eastwood’s films as end-of-year awards contenders. There’s a reason that they’re not following suit with Jersey Boys – that’s because it’s not good.
(Photo credit: Warner Bros.)