You can take the boys out of Jersey, but you’ll never take the Jersey out of the boys
This is a true story.
Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza: Boardwalk Empire) knows there are only three ways to get out of Jersey: Join the army, join the mob or get famous. Tired of being a two-bit hood for local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken: Gods Behaving Badly), he starts a band with his brother and fellow small-time crook Nick (Michael Lomenda). When they’re not in jail or pulling robberies, the three play at local clubs and dancehalls. But something is missing.
Tommy recruits Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young: Vegas), whose voice has made him a sensation. Like every cop and judge, Tommy also makes it his mission to keep Frankie — the kid with the beautiful voice — out of trouble.
As names and band mates change. Frankie — now Frankie Valli — is always one step away from fame and Tommy one step from a prison sentence. Eventually, young singer/songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen: How Sweet It Is) joins up, and the boys earn a record contract.
Five No. 1 singles later, The Four Seasons are the biggest band in America. But fame, constant touring and clashing egos are tearing them apart. Frankie never sees his family and misses his kids. Bob is tired of touring. Tommy can’t stop betting all the band’s earnings on the ponies. Soon the mob as well as fans are chasing after the band.
Based on the hit musical of the same name, Jersey Boys is one of the best of the jukebox genre, mixing humor, drama and a great collection of songs. Director Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar) kept the format of the musical as well as much of the Broadway and touring company cast. His choice proves an expedient way to cover four decades of music, but some stage tricks don’t translate well to the silver screen.
Each of the Seasons narrates part of the story, speaking directly to the camera. This works on stage, but in the movies it seems odd when a character breaks away from a scene. The device could have been cut without much loss.
On the other hand, the theatrical cast pays off. Bergen, Lomenda and Young have been playing their roles for years, Bergen and Lomenda in the touring company and Young in the Broadway run, for which he won a Tony. On screen, Bergen is especially effective as the Four Season’s quiet, sensitive writer.
Whether you’re a Baby Boomer with all of the Four Seasons’ hits on 45s or a musical aficionado, Jersey Boys should have your toes tapping. Be warned: If you make the mistake of taking a Frankie Valli fan (as I did), you may have trouble hearing the soundtrack over your seatmate’s singing.