“Jersey Boys” tells the tale of the rise and demise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The movie covers over a decade of the original group’s rise to fame to the reuniting decades later for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With Frankie Valli and “Sherry” songwriter Bob Gaudio as executive producers, you know the story has to hit close to the truth.
Growing up Italian in Jersey in the 60s, slick, “two-bit hustler,” Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) invites his friend Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) to join he and band members Nick DeVito (Johnny Cannizarro) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) to perform at local night clubs. The riff raff group takes their turns with short stints in prison, but still manage to book shows while waiting on being the next big thing.
Once they add songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) at the convincing of a very persistent Joey Pesci , yep that Joe Pesci, (Joseph Russo), they follow up in New York with music labels by knocking door-to-door until they meet Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), label owner and producer. The group, whose name keeps changing and now goes by The Four Lovers, gets a deal signing backup for about a year until they beg to record their own songs as promised. Enter the introduction of “Sherry” and the rest is history.
The movie takes the audience through a musical decade where American Bandstand and an Ed Sullivan appearance topped the list as “made it” moments. They endure struggles, especially Tommy who gets in over his head financially and Frankie who faces ugly personal problems with his family.
In addition to this charismatic foursome, two performances are quite remarkable including Christopher Walken who plays loan shark/crime boss Gyp DeCarlo who pulls Frankie and his crew out of more than one sticky situation and Renee Marino as Frankie’s wife, Mary Delgado. Her spitfire attitude and striking good looks captures the screen whenever she’s on.
It’s an American music storybook that brings the theatrics of the Broadway play by having the fourth wall broken down and a performance worthy of applause at the end. It’s a rags-to-riches path to stardom with iconic music along the way. Due to its long history, some parts get dragged out but when choosing what moments are most important, it’s hard to edit down to a feature-length film.
Final words: From scoundrels to songbirds, "Jersey Boys" make it better with a little bit of singing.