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A Fistful of Doo-wops

Keith Bernstein/Warner Brothers Pictures

Jersey Boys (2014)

Based on Des McAnuff’s Tony-winning musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the big-screen adaptation of “Jersey Boys” under the direction of Clint Eastwood seems like the antithesis of Rob Marshall movie musicals. With the meteoric rise, rock-bottom fall and all the fourth-wall breaking, the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice keeps hinting at its potential as the next “Casino” or “Boogie Nights.” But Mr. Eastwood seems oblivious to these thematic cues, and instead directs it in his typical B-movie low key as seen in “Million Dollar Baby.”

Through much of the movie, you keep thinking it would be better suited for someone with substantially more style and flair, like Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson. This doesn’t have anything to do with its gangland milieu, with Christopher Walken as mafia don Gyp DeCarlo. Mr. Eastwood just doesn’t seem to have much affinity for the intrinsic “Behind the Music” fodder as reenacted by John Lloyd Young as Mr. Valli, Erich Bergen as Bob Gaudio, Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito and Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi.

Given Mr. Eastwood’s well-established musicality, though, it’s not at all surprising that it’s during the musical numbers the film truly comes alive. These scenes are so electrifying that you look past the ridiculous hair and makeup job. They range from spine-tingling to downright tear-jerking. By contrast, musical interludes in “Inside Llewyn Davis” felt like amateur hours from a student film. And to think this barbershop material isn’t even part of Mr. Eastwood’s repertoire. 


Opens on June 20.

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, musical book by Mr. Brickman and Mr. Elice; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach; songs by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe; production design by James J. Murakami; costumes by Deborah Hopper; produced by Mr. Eastwood, Graham King and Robert Lorenz; released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 14 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli), Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi), Vincent Piazza (Tommy DeVito), Christopher Walken (Gyp DeCarlo), Mike Doyle (Bob Crewe), Renée Marino (Mary) and Erica Piccininni (Lorraine).


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