Clint Eastwood’s JERSEY BOYS: Epic Fail and Empty Seats

REVIEWED BY: DAVE McGUIRE

The Spaghetti Western, in the 1950-70s kids would eagerly pack into theaters, throw popcorn at one another, enjoy they’re Saturday afternoon watching shoot outs on the silver screen. From Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Rob Roy, the best was of course Clint Eastwood, I particularly enjoy ‘Two Mules for Sister Sarah.’ Clint Eastwood, up on screen never reloading, never missing. Never missing? The western is a particularly American genera, we created it, it’s not borrowed like most of our culture; it like Jazz, Blues, Rock and Roll, Vaudeville, or the Stage Musical, is a pure American innovation in the entertainment arts. jersey1The Western, Mr. Eastwood, I beg of you after last night, go back to where you belong, shooting bad guys in black hats, screwing around with whores dressed like nuns, a realm where you can never miss, Mr. Eastwood your attempt at a Jersey Boys’ adaptation was such a miss it ricochet around the bar and killed Sister Sarah and both her mules. I can think of few words to describe the utter debacle of this film, but most of them are unpublishable.

‘Jersey Boys’ is Eastwood’s screen adaptation of the Broadway Musical hit of the same name. It tells the tale of Franki Valli, and the Four Seasons, a band who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. A Broadway Musical, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it’s a musical about rock and roll, alright, got my popcorn, let’s get ready for some tunes. .  . Uh-huh?

The movie opens with Tommy Devito (Played well by Vincent Piazza), walking down the street talking to the camera, as a narrator, telling the story of the neighborhood, introducing us to Frankie Valli (Played passable believably by John Lloyd Young,) and the concept that there are three ways out of the Neighborhood, two which lead to death war and getting ‘mobbed up’ the third is to get famous. In the opening monologue, he mentions Joe Pesci (Goodfella’s), who is apparently from the same neighborhood as the Four Seasons, which is ironic because at this point in the Jersey Boys I was thinking, ‘oh so we are going to see ‘Goodfella’s’ the musical?’ Keep in mind Jersey boys is a screen adaptation of a Musical.

Then Eastwood’s film takes us on a series of miss adventure through the hood, criminal world; while the sight of three friends trying to steal a safe and driving a car doing a wheelie into the plate glass display window of a store is amusing. It got its deserved chuckle. I am left wondering, where is the music? Where is the music? WHERE IS THE GOD (expletive deleted) MUSIC?

jersey_boysAmusing yes, there are some great high points in this film, the writers, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice, manage to toss some great one line zingers into the narrative. “This was 1959, when people thought Liberace was just theatrical.” Shot out in a forth wall breaking narration, while describing the stereo typical flaming gay record producer, Bob Crew, (Played well by Nike Doyle).  I also found humor in Christopher Walkin’s Portrayal of Gyp DeCarlo a local mob boss. These are the high notes folks. For a while, a long while, I thought they may be the only notes, in this musical (?). This movie is an adaptation of a Musical right? A Bio Pick about a BAND?

About 30-40 minutes into this 134 minute long, I am not sure what to call it any more, what kind of film am I watching? I have resigned myself to the fact that Clint Eastwood is conducting some odd experiment, a musical with only a shading of Music. A movie about a famous rock band that only brushes snippets of their iconic songs across a canvas of their criminal past. Perhaps, Eastwood, just forgot, musicals as a general rule, rely on music. The first act ends, if you can apply a three act structure to this chaos, with finally some music as the band adds their final member and completes its formation period. Finally music. Now, don’t get to excited, while the music comes and goes, from this point on, the movie remains firmly set in the Biopic Genera (kind of?) and will only feed you dribbles and drops of songs until the end.

jersey-boys-movie-trailerLet’s do Mr. Eastwood a favor; forget for a moment that this is an adaptation of a musical. Let’s assume, Clint Eastwood, made a conscious decision to focus on the story of Franki Valli, and the Four Seasons, lives. Fair enough, it could have been a conscious choice to focus on the drama leaving the music as the back ground to the hard ships of boozing it up with hookers on the Rock and Roll road trip that is the general milieu of a touring rock band. Okay; rock on! If we take it that way this musical, without music, may actually be worth the time and effort it took to make. The cost of a ticket? The relationship between Tommy and the rest of the band, his ‘brotherhood’ with Frankie, and his utter betrayal was a good plot point. But it shouldn’t have been a plot point it should have been the plot. Which brings me to this, where is the plot? Is there none? Well now Mr. Eastwood, you have blown my mind, a musical without music, no to be fair, a musical adaptation where music takes a back seat, to the plot is one thing, but now to leave out the plot as well? You are a revolutionary mind Mr. Eastwood.

*I have been Avoiding them, but be weary there are spoilers ahead. Stop reading if after having read, to this point you still intend to see this steaming pile of …..

Again I am being unfair, there are plots in the film, and good ones, lots of them. Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of them, and they are expertly woven together by the practiced hands of Spider Monkeys on LSD (no, not Lake Shore). Just for Giggles, let’s enumerate them; first you have the formation of the band, alright good plot, it last until you actually hear music from them. Again where is the (Expletive Deleted,) music, it’s like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book, go on find the song, can’t (?), look harder it’s there somewhere. Maybe?  As with all musical biopics about legendary bands you have the rise and fall of the band supporting you main narrative arch.  This plot focuses around the brotherhood of Frankie and Tommy two stereotypical good-fellas from a Jersey hood, cookie cutter characters with no real appeal, except to the small minded people out there who want a million sequels to the same freaking movie, because it’s familiar. They grew up together, they were brothers of the street, tight as can be, they made good, got out, became super famous rock stars. Alas Tommy never left the Gangster good-fella life behind and it returns to bite him on the Ed Sullivan Show. A lone shark arrives to collect a $150,000 note Tommy has racked up. Well, Frankie sees his brother about to take a swim with the fishes and falls on the blade for him, it destroys the band, it destroys Frankie, but he does it, out of love for his brother.  Whoa, that’s a great plot, Bravo!  An act of true brotherly love, like when Anna, saves Elsa at the end of ‘Frozen’ ( A movie musical with get this, MUSIC,) this is an awesome movie, forget everything I said before, bravo Mr. Eastwood you have created a Shakespearian tragedy out of a . . . oh what? No. No he really hasn’t; here is why, the brotherly love angle the sacrifice of Frankie for his brother Tommy would have been all that and more. Except, it wasn’t the main plot, there was no main plot. It is as if Mr. Eastwood and the writers took every plot from every band biopic ever made, devoured them whole, drank a bunch of cheap whiskey and vomited all those plots onto celluloid. This amazing plot of brotherly love, self-sacrifice becomes “Yadda Yadda, and All that Jazz” as it is lost under a cavalcade of other plots.

jerseyPlot 2, Frankie has a wife? Apparently, this is perhaps the worst, of the worst, of the very worst of this movie. When we finally hear actual musical number, (end of “act” 1, as described above,) there is a red head girl in the audience. Frankie’s voice woes her, and she is ready to jump him. Tommy even lends Frankie his car to get it on, ah brotherly love. Alas, Frankie gets arrested leaving him with a certain blueness in his region. That’s okay, however, at the next show there is another women for him to fall for Mary DelGado (Played, by Rene’e Marino, and her beauty is nearly enough to make the price of admission worth it.) So they meet, after having a mob thug scare away the guy who is already on her at the bar, she and Frankie go have coffee. She tells Frankie in one of those high note zingers, the writing team does have a good sense of humor, not good enough to save this film, still,  she tells Frankie he should spell Valley with a ‘I’ not a ‘Y’ due to the fact that ‘Y’ is apparently a “BullS— letter,” neither a vowel of a consonant. I am sure the letter ‘Y’s’ Lawyer’s will be in touch Mr. Eastwood. Based solely on this career altering advice, apparently (?) Frankie marries her. In the very next scene. Eventually they have three (?) daughters, and she turns into a raging alcoholic, Frankie’s daughter dies of a drug overdose. Yup, see how I just throw that in there? That’s exactly how it happens, the daughter dies of a drug overdose! After she has maybe, MAYBE, ten minutes of screen time. Before she died I thought she was his only daughter, then I see she has two sisters just in time for her to die? I had a colony of Sea Monkey’s as a kid, they died, or were never really there? I cared more about the death of those Sea Monkey’s then I did about Frankie’s Daughter dying.

To a point, this is the movies greatest failure, epic failure. It’s a Bio Pic, but I don’t care enough about the central character enough to even yawn, when his daughter dies. It’s a musical about a rock band where the music takes a back seat to the plot, which doesn’t really even exist, or there are too many, none of which are connected. I cannot connect to any of the characters because they are cookie cutter, paper doll’s snipped from ‘Goodfella’s’ and ‘My Cousin Vinnie’, oh but they can sing, when they get around to it. Where’s Waldo?

Here is what I see. We are in a saloon in a spaghetti western, and you hear the spurs, ching ching ching, then you see his face under the brim of his ten gallon hat, chewing on his unlit cigar, Clint Eastwood steps through the saloon doors. He cross pulls both of his six shooters firing of all 12,000 round contained in them, and every single one misses. That my friends is what ‘Jersey Boys’ is. It misses the mark so many times.

So there I sat, dead daughter, didn’t care. An epic self-sacrifice for brotherly love, didn’t care. Occasionally, OCCASIONALLY, getting to hear a pretty good song, sung passably better than the drunk middle aged tax attorney at the local Karaoke bar sings it, however my butt was so asleep, I couldn’t bring myself to care. Thank god this is over.

Oh, wait no, no it’s not.

Remember ‘Schindler’s list’? Spielberg did this thing, and it was awesome, amazing, at the end of the movie we jumped to present day to the grave of Oscar Schindler, and every person he had saved was there, each placing a stone on his grave. It really worked, it impacted. Remember when Spielberg made ‘Saving Private Ryan’ he did the same thing, an old man talking to a grave, and it was lame. Well, Clint Eastwood tries it in this movie, he jumps us to 1990 when the Four Season’s reunited to be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. This is worse then, pointless, it’s what Mr. Eastwood? An Attempt to increase the run time of your film, a last ditch effort to get some freaking music in.  Frankie Valli in the films greatest moment of humor, looks into the camera to narrate, and says something about life a being like the Energizer Bunny, which was in fact the funniest, laugh out loud moment of the film. Though I am sure it wasn’t meant to be, I think Eastwood was trying to sum up the moral of the last 18 million years of which I had been stuck watching this debacle of a film, but it was hilarious, it summed up exactly how I was feeling about this movie at this point. It keeps going…..  and going…… and going….. Will this hell never end?

Oh, and Mr. Eastwood, throwing a song and Dance number with the full cast under the credits does not make up for the lack of music throughout. Does not make this a musical?

My advice, if you want to take a date to “Jersey Boys,” don’t! Go to Netflix, or the video store, and get a movie called “Walk the Line” cuddle on the couch and watch a well-made Musical/Biopic. Or “The Doors” that was good too, or “Airheads.”

As for you Mr. Eastwood, I predict a lot of empty chairs, in a lot of theaters, I understand you enjoy conversations with empty chairs, so go to your own movie, and there should be plenty of them in the theater for you to speak with.