Jersey Boys, the movie, hits your local multiplex this Friday, June 20. But will the film version live up to its Broadway source material? And does it do justice to the now-legendary vocal group whose story is told in Jersey Boys, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons?
The reviews are starting to come in, and so far the verdict is a resounding, definitive — maybe.
Jersey Boys, the Broadway musical, opened on Broadway in 2005 and was an instant smash. Nine years later, the show still pulls in more than $800,000 per week at the August Wilson Theater on 52nd Street in Manhattan, and grosses far more than that on various worldwide tours.
But despite several attempts, Hollywood never turned Jersey Boys into a big-screen movie, until the story of the music legends came into the hands of a Hollywood legend, Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood.
“I couldn’t understand quite why after nine years on Broadway, somebody didn’t want to do it,” says Eastwood, who was dedicated to remain as faithful as possible to the Broadway version. He brought on board screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who also wrote the “book” for the stage play.
And then he hired much of the original Broadway cast, including Broadway’s original “Frankie Valli,” John Lloyd Young, who at age 38 starts the film playing Valli as a 16-year-old.
Eastwood said that his main change is in the tone of the story, which on film will be more gritty and “realistic” than the Broadway show.
“It’s a wonderful play, and it had a lot of excitement. But I tried to approach it more from a realistic angle,” Eastwood said. “There’s a lot of things that you can do in a movie that you can’t do onstage. I just tried to open it up and give it a certain realism.”
So, how are the results? The initial reviews are, well, middling at best.
Variety says the Jersey Boys movie “has its own peculiar charms,” despite being “a bit of a slog” — the film is two hours and 14 minutes long — and “embracing neither the fizzy energy of a Vegas-ready tuner, nor the grit of a warts-and-all biopic.”
The Wrap said the Jersey Boys movie deserves, “all the positive adjectives that mean ‘not terrible, but ultimately negligible,'” and also criticized Eastwood’s screen version for failing to “answer the question, ‘Why did I just spend 134 minutes watching the Frankie Valli episode of Behind the Music?'”
And Screen Daily, while praising Eastwood’s direction as “intelligent,” ultimately gives the film a thumbs-down for its “painfully familiar rise-then-fall biopic structure, which nullifies this drama’s potentially more interesting elements.”
“Jersey Boys isn’t particularly clever or insightful in how it subverts the conventional rock-star biopic,” said the publication.
But if you’re a fan of the show or of the real Four Seasons, you can decide for yourself starting Friday.