I had been dreading the release of the film version of Jersey Boys, knowing that chances were slight, at best, that the material could translate well from stage to screen. That dread was compounded when I learned that the movie was being directed by doddering old Clint Eastwood. Clint, after all, had showcased his progressing senility by having a ten-minute dialogue with an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
However, as a fan of the Four Seasons who has seen the stage production of Jersey Boys twice, as well as being in the opening night audience when Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, did a reunion thing at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in the early 1990's, I knew that I would have to go and witness Clint's folly - regardless of how terrible it turned out to be.
My first hint that the movie version of Jersey Boys might be less god-awful than what I was anticipating came last Saturday morning when I received a telephone message from my sister. Gail and I had seen the stage version together at The Venetian in Las Vegas (a performance that outshone the one that I had seen earlier on Broadway), so she knew how great the show could be. Gail's recorded message was rapturous: "You have to go see Jersey Boys! It's wonderful! It's so good that I may go see it again - in fact, I probably will go see it again!"
High praise, indeed.
So Sunday afternoon, I drove to my local theatre and put out six bucks for a ticket. At best I could have an enjoyable afternoon, and, at worst, I could take m y popcorn home and share it with the chickens.
The young man selling concessions told me that I was in for a treat. I wasn't sure how someone younger than Frankie Valli's grandchildren could know much about the material being shown, but he persisted. The cast, he assured me, featured the same young men who had performed as the Four Seasons in the Broadway version of the musical. I was a bit skeptical on that point, so when I got home I pulled out my old Broadway Playbill and found that none of the names matched. Another urban legend put to rest!
But the kid was right on his other point - the show was a real treat!
The film version mirrored the stage production perfectly. The young actors brought the fifties and sixties to life in a manner that would have made Ed Sullivan or Dick Clark feel right at home, and the wonderful music, the iconic songs of the Four Seasons, tugged at every emotion. I wasn't the only one singing along - I checked!
One of the concerns that I had before seeing the film was that the actor, Joe Pesci, a person who was integral to the formation of the original singing group, was not mentioned on the film's Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) page on the Internet. It turns out that he was there all along (listed as just "Joey") and was portrayed in a bit segment in the movie. My other concern was, of course, the eighty-four-year-old director. Clint, to his credit, only used one of his many kids in the movie, and she had a very minor part. But, more importantly, he took a terrific piece of material and had the good sense not to screw it up!
Jersey Boys is a great motion picture - one of the best that I have seen in years - and, like my sister, I will probably go see it again. It's that good!