Renting at the Reels: Band gains fame, musical goes to film

By: Kaitlyn McKay, Columnist

Based on the Tony-award winning biographical musical of the same name, “Jersey Boys” follows the story of four young men — Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nicky Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) — from their rough life in New Jersey to their emergence as The Four Seasons, a rock and pop band who became popular in the 1960s.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Clint Eastwood’s version of “Jersey Boys” is not your average musical; it is a biographical film with scenes of The Four Seasons performing in it. It contains most of the songs in the original stage production where The Four Seasons perform for an audience, rather than singing their feelings to one another, or dancing like in traditional musicals like “Mamma Mia.”

But whether or not the film was treated as a full-out musical or a regular film, the quality of “Jersey Boys” would have remained the same, a movie that is nothing more than just OK.

The Four Seasons has a 50-year long history. The film first takes us to 1951 where a 16-year old Valli first meets DeVito and Massi. Fast forward five years, and the three have formed their band under the name, The Four Lovers, until 1960 when they changed their name to The Four Seasons and added Bob Gaudio as their songwriter.

When a musical group has a history as long as The Four Seasons, it is impossible to include every important fact about the band in a two-hour movie. Things need to be cut. For example, you are introduced to Valli’s wife, Mary Delgado (Renee Marino) in a scene when they first meet, but the next time the two are seen together in the film an hour later, their marriage is suddenly in shambles.

The film is a mess, everything is crammed in an attempt to give as much information to the audience as possible, but as a result, the audience has no idea how much time has passed unless they are aware of when each song came out. John Lloyd Young at 39 looks exactly the same in the entire film as he does when he plays a 16-year old Frankie Valli. The only thing that changes is his hairstyle.

However, there is no denying the talent of the film’s cast, especially from the actors playing The Four Seasons (Young, Piazza, Lomenda and Bergen). The singing is enjoyable, fun and it is clear that Young, Piazza, Lomenda and Bergen are all incredibly talented. No one was lip-syncing to the original Four Seasons soundtracks; all four them were actually singing live on-set as they were filming. It should not be a surprise that the scenes of them performing are the best parts of the film.

Of the four, the most memorable character is Tommy DeVito, the black sheep who gets the group in trouble for skipping out on hotel bills and taking out expensive loans without telling the group. Piazza beams with overconfidence and arrogance, and despite his constant disrespect to everyone around him, he is the most fun to watch out of all the characters in the film.

“Jersey Boys” is ultimately a flawed, but mostly an entertaining film. While its flaws can overwhelm its good parts, the film is worth seeing just for the musical talent of the actors.

For more recent movie picks at Tiger Reels, keep reading Renting at the Reels.

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