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Review: It's easy to sing praises of film adaptation of 'Jersey Boys'

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Looking at Jersey Boys’ spot on the summer release schedule instantly prompted the question: “Why the heck is Warner Bros. releasing this in the summer where it’s going to get killed?”

Well, maybe it won’t. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons offers a certain summertime appeal, primarily because of the enduring music the band created during their successful run through the 1960s.

Maybe it was Valli’s impossible falsetto or maybe it was bandmate and songwriter Bob Gaudio’s catchy tunes such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like a Man. Together they made history along with the rest of their band as inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but things weren’t always melodious.

Jersey Boys is a coming-of-age story and that’s what makes it the perfect summer film. Based on the Broadway play that’s run for more than a decade on the Great White Way and toured the nation, it offers plenty of fun along with heaping amount of heft.

It’s quite clear from their story that the members of the Four Seasons had two paths from which to choose. One likely involved a life of consistent crime with significant jail time attached. The other? Well, they made a better choice.

But the reality of the situation is that although the trio that featured Valli (a charismatic John Lloyd Young recreating his Broadway role), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and Nick Massi (Mike Lomeda) were just another local bar band until a young Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci, the Oscar winner) introduced Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to the rest. Their rise to overnight success took some time and dues paying, but eventually it happened when Sherry broke huge and the other hits soon followed.

Eastwood possesses a keen ear for what works musically in film – he always has and he plays to that strength here, but where his touch is felt most is in bringing the emotions that come with fame to the fore. None of these guys were saints, but there’s an air of understanding that Eastwood shows when it comes to dealing with how tough life on the road is on familial relationships.

There exists some heft in those scenes as Valli especially copes with the way his career choices chip away at his domestic foundation. Marry that to element of betrayal exposed in the film and Eastwood crafts something that’s a cut above what summer fare is supposed to be.

As is typical of an Eastwood film nothing flashy brightens Jersey Boys, but the performances certainly do. Young takes Valli from 16 well into his 40s believably, as do his band/cast mates. Three of them, having grown up in the same neighborhood, have that loyalty to one another that only comes from that shared experience. The trio of Young, Lomeda and Piazza bring that out in an intriguing way.

Jersey Boys is a film with a harmony of its own, no matter which movie season it may be.

Movie: Jersey Boys
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Mike Lomeda
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: R for language throughout
Running time: 133 minutes
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com

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