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Jersey Boys: More of an Ethnic Stardom Indictment Than a Movie Musical (2014)

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Jersey Boys

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For oldie music buffs, Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons were a last gasp doo-wop group that hit it big with a string of falsetto hits just before the Beatles conquered America and changed the charts forever in the mid to late 60s. It was a briefly fleeting transitional phase in US pop culture best captured by the smash Broadway musical, It does not merit a group bio pic unless you want to focus on the usual downbeat tinted tone ethnicity that Hollywood is so prone to derisively regurgitate.

And we get that here as the first 45 minutes of the film center on the grandstanding control of group leader Tommy Devito (Vincent Piazza) and his thug persona which is supposed to serve as some dramatic foil to the nostalgia of the era with no plot device backdrops save weak supporting characters like mob savoir Gyp DeCarlo (the overused, aging Christopher Walken) and Ken doll tough guy forth season (Michael Lomenda), both of whom are glaringly miscast.

By the time we reach the pivotal stage where make or break songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) is fatefully introduced by a young Joe Pesci (Joey Russo) and joins the group, almost half the film has been dedicated to a montage of juvenile criminality which is a subplot in the tale of their rise to fame that belittles their place in time with way too much black hat poseur formula. The only lighthearted pause amid the neighborhood mischief is when flamboyant record producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) signs them as backup singers and then charges them to record.

As lead singer Valli, John Lloyd Young stands out with a perfunctory high pitch impression. But with too many conflicting scenes based on relentless street wise stereotype development, their discovery in music, the performances, concerts and recording scenes all come across as forced impromptu breaks in the story and the genesis and synthesis of the talent, the songs and the music is treated as an insulting afterthought.

Director Clint Eastwood was a naive unwitting victim of a one note script that stays true to negative polarized portrayals of Italian-American identity still evident in many films. Valli's marital woes, his efforts to make good on and cover Devito's gambling debts and his estrangement with his doomed daughter are a drag and this movie is stuck behind the scenes as if their up front star power and songbook were unworthy of a more balanced upbeat treatment.

The`last 15 minutes of the film try to make up for the subtle anti-ethnic low blow dialogue, but it's too little too late to offset the bashing. Valli's most iconic hits like You're Just Too Good To Be True and My Eyes Adored You are thrown in before a medley finale that sounds like a public TV ad for an oldie music infomercial tacked onto the credit roll. Given the price of a ticket dollar nowadays, this hood rat slur of these musical boys from Jersey is best saved for a Netflix DVD mailer or digital stream.

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