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Jersey Boys

By JAY HORTON
When Clint Eastwood was first announced as the director of Jersey Boys, it didn’t seem an altogether disastrous notion. He’s of an age to understand the Four Seasons’ past popularity, and the workmanlike pleasures of Bird always made us wonder how the old pro would handle a musical biopic when not hamstrung by pieties. More to the point, how badly could anyone damage the platinum formula behind a hits-strewn Broadway smash? But Eastwood’s instincts toward adoring Behind the Music docudrama means he throws away most of the songs to concentrate on the fractious, mafia-adjacent rise of the doo-wop group. Eastwood’s greatest asset as a director has always been the ability to bestow mythic stature to deserving leads. It’s a nifty talent requiring only absolute seriousness of tone, but here it veers toward the horrific: Though John Lloyd Young won a Tony for wrangling Frankie Valli’s falsetto, his talents don’t extend to silent emoting. Yet the lion’s share of blame falls on screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Within a jukebox musical, where the libretto is only expected to tease momentary diversion from the succession of familiar hits, stylized staging can wring depth from one-sided dialogue or encourage the audience to flesh out shadowy figures, but these tricks fall flat on the big screen. You can’t have character development without backstory, nor dramatic tension without a coherent sequence of events. Since most of the musical numbers have already been shorn, we’re left with interminable scenes of careerist minutiae, sudden flare-ups never explained or resolved, and self-serving monologues delivered to the camera by thickly accented, quasi-celeb braggarts we’re learning to despise. We already saw these sorts of Jersey boys on MTV not long ago, and they had six seasons.
 
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  • Release Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Critic's Score: D
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