Turns out, I was right to be nervous. Rather than a splashy, funny, toe-tapping collage of musical pastiche that made the play such a success, Clint Eastwood's take on Jersey Boys is a drab, uneven, paint-by-numbers biopic that confirms every dreadful worry I had about him being an ill fit for this material. But to be perfectly fair, the problems don't start with him.
This is not a good thing.
Even the funniest lines from the show only work when played broadly to a packed house, but fall flat when nonchalantly uttered onscreen. And the constant stare-into-the-camera narrations from multiple actors inadvertently take us out of the story more than they open it up to us. Consequently, the film feels stagey – even more stagey than the stage show itself!
If Eastwood can be (theoretically) congratulated for one decision, it might be giving some of the show's actors a chance to reprise their roles in the film; an opportunity few thespians get. But even that whim is only partially successful. However technically impressive John Lloyd Young (the original star on Broadway) is at impersonating Frankie Valli's angelic falsetto, he lacks a certain screen charisma. The same can be said of other players, who are either acting with too much affectation or not enough. The only cast member who consistently delights is Christopher Walken as a patriarchal mafia kingpin with a soft spot for “My Mother's Eyes”.
*1/2 out of ****