The underrated 2007 comedy Walk Hard, a spoof of over-the-top biopics of musicians, has a running joke in which off-the-cuff phrases, such as “Walk Hard,” or “Beautiful Ride,” inspire John C. Reilly’s Dewey Cox to write his masterpieces. It’s a clever gag that mocks cinema’s urge to show musical greats as such brilliant geniuses that, of course, even their most meaningless words can inspire great songwriting.
About halfway through Jersey Boys, Clint “Let’s not mention Paint Your Wagon” Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, one of The Four Seasons’ biggest hits is born when a character utters the sentence “Big girls don’t cry.” It’s an amazing moment that made me laugh and put my face in my hands, in pure shock that The Man With No Name had succumbed to such lows.
Don’t get me wrong; the hour preceding was also pure garbage. The film is lifeless and absent of anything resembling energy. Scenes go on twice as long as they should, and the ugly digital cinematography fails to capture any of the thrill The Four Seasons receive from their talent and newfound celebrity. Many will flock to see the film based on their friends’ rave reviews of the Broadway show, and come out of the theater questioning their friendships. The stage version is a lot of fun, essentially becoming Mamma Mia for dads, and I hardly expect Clint Eastwood’s rendition of the material to sell any tickets in NY.
I focus on the “big girls don’t cry” scene because it gave me the closest thing to an emotion I felt for the entire film. There’s just nothing here. The audience never is able to connect enough to any of the leads to care about their careers, their money woes, or their family dramas, the last of which the film itself almost seems to forget about unless a major breakup or tragedy is taking place. One of Frankie Valli’s daughters becomes a prominent character in the last 45 minutes, despite having perhaps two minutes of screen time in the preceding 90 minutes. The leads fail to make much of an impression, essentially just replicating the performances they gave night after night on Broadway. Even Christopher Walken, playing a New Jersey gangster, manages to turn in one of the most forgettable performances of his career.
“But what about the music?”, you may ask. Surely they must still have some halfway decent performances, right? And yes, most of the covers are fine. One major exception is a rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” which contains instrumentals so far off tune, I can only assume that a member of the horn section had a stroke mid-song. Clint Eastwood was clearly kind enough to include this performance in the finished film. Either that, or he didn’t notice this mess of an instrumental, because the man cannot direct musical sequences. Though the actors do, to their credit, give it their all, when it’s time to sing, it’s near-impossible to get any sort of thrill or delight. The cinematography is drab, the editing seems to be without reason, and one is left only to wonder what went horribly wrong.
Hating Jersey Boys gives me little pleasure, and I can only recommend this film to those looking for a nice $10 nap. Oh, what a disappointment.
Jersey Boys opens today in Philly area theaters.