Will ‘Jersey Boys’ Inspire Me to Start a Doo-Wop Group? (And 24 Other Urgent Questions)
Clint Eastwood (‘Any Which Way You Can,’ ‘Firefox’) is back in the director’s chair for this week’s new release, ‘Jersey Boys,’ a biopic of the legendary group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Will ‘Jersey Boys’ have you dancing up and down the aisles? Will ‘Jersey Boys’ inspire you to finally start that doo-wop group you’ve been planning for years? As a service to you, we answer every question you could possibly have about ‘Jersey Boys.’
Q: Will ‘Jersey Boys’ inspire me to finally start that doo-wop group I’ve been planning for years?
Q: Is Jon Bon Jovi a Jersey Boy?
A: Well, technically, yes — but not in the context of what we’re talking about in this movie.
Q: Is ‘Jersey Boys’ based on the classic Tom Waits song?
A: No. And the name of that song is “Jersey Girl.”
Q: Who are the Jersey Boys?
A: The Jersey Boys are Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) – also known as The Four Seasons.
Q: What’s the best thing about ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: The end credits.
Q: Oh, is there a long and hilarious montage of all the future hypothetical ‘Jersey Boys’ sequels?
A: No. But it’s the only part of the movie that has any musical energy, which is weird for a film that’s based on a musical. It really is almost a shock to the system while watching the end credits, because it’s hard not to be overcome by the feeling of, “Oh, man, I would have loved to watch this movie.”
Q: Is the rest of the movie bad?
A: ‘Jersey Boys’ certainly isn’t bad, it’s just so obvious that the movie could have been much better.
Q: What’s the major problem with ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: It’s almost as if Clint Eastwood was trying to make ‘Goodfellas’-lite instead of a rollicking, energetic adaptation of a stage show. I almost think Eastwood saw Joe Pesci in the script and a light bulb went off in his head.
Q: Joe Pesci is in ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: Not the actor, but there is a character in ‘Jersey Boys’ named Joe Pesci who is based on the actor.
A: It’s complicated.
Q: Joe Pesci aside, how is ‘Jersey Boys’ anything like ‘Goodfellas’?
A: The first third of the movie is basically a mob drama, only one in which none of the mobsters are very good at their jobs. Even Christopher Walken, who is supposed to be the head mobster, kind of comes off as a clown. (Which is okay, because at least Walken is funny.) These scenes go on way too long and there’s hardly any music while it’s happening.
Q: Does the movie get better once we see The Four Seasons start to become famous?
A: Yes. But even that’s kind of odd because it’s kind of hard to tell in what year things are happening. One minute they record “Sherry,” the next they are on ‘American Bandstand,’ and the next they’re on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ – then it goes back in time again. In other words: the joy of watching these guys become famous is missing. Eastwood seems to just want to focus on the misery.
Q: Is the misery effective?
A: Sometimes. It’s a little heartbreaking to watch Frankie Valli on his sad solo tour in an effort to pay off the mob debts that Tommy DeVito racked up in the first act – debts that we knew from the beginning would come back to haunt the band. I mean, has anyone in a movie ever borrowed money from the mob, then paid it back in timely fashion with no repercussions? Have we ever seen a mobster smile, then say, “You know, I really appreciate the promptness on this,” then walk off?
Q: But in other cases?
A: I’m exaggerating a little bit, but in the film it feels like we meet Valli’s now-adult daughter, see their dramatic exchange, then are at her funeral in the course of 10 minutes. The film actually smash cuts from an excited Valli answering his phone, thinking it’s his daughter, to that of the funeral scene.
Q: Whoa, spoiler alert there, partner…
A: It is not a spoiler that Valli’s real-life daughter died in 1980.
Q: Will fans of the Broadway production like the musical adaptation?
A: This question is going to create some interesting scenarios. I suspect fans of the Broadway production will not like the theatrical version very much. I imagine a fan of the show telling his or her friends how energetic and fun the Broadway version is, then feeling kind of stupid after the movie is over when they have to explain, “Well, those end credits were sure fun, right?”
Q: Can ‘Jersey Boys’ the film stand on its own merits?
A: Well, sure. But, again, for fans of the show, that will be tough for them to separate.
Q: Have you seen the Broadway production?
Q: Did you enjoy ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: The story itself – though, not always presented in the best way – is inherently interesting. I’m always a sucker for biopics in which I’m interested in a topic that I don’t know that much about. ‘Zodiac,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Philomena’ and ‘Jersey Boys’ all range in quality from excellent (‘Zodiac’) to serviceable (‘Jersey Boys’), but I always find myself engrossed while watching because I want to know the details of what happens to these real-life people.
Q: How is John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli?
A: John Lloyd Young certainly has Valli’s voice (and he won a Tony for originating the stage role), but, at times, he falls victim to those facial overreactions that stage actors have to do in front of an audience.
Q: Who is the best Jersey Boy?
A: Bruce Springsteen.
Q: Who is the best Jersey Boy in ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito, who is always getting the band into trouble with his antics – and, while not on stage, has a Jersey accent so thick and over the top, it’s downright amusing. Also, I love the way he can go from scoundrel to, once on stage, a smiling, dancing and jovial performer.
Q: What’s the most unbelievable thing about ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: When John Lloyd Young is playing Frankie Valli at age 16.
Q: How old is John Lloyd Young in real life?
Q: Do The Four Seasons perform “Bad Medicine” at any point in ‘Jersey Boys’?
A: “Bad Medicine” is a song off of the Bon Jovi album ‘New Jersey.’ Again, Jon Bon Jovi has nothing to do with ‘Jersey Boys,’ and “Bad Medicine” is not featured at all during the movie.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.