By Ed Fox
There’s one word to describe Jersey Boys: Average. Nothing great. Nothing Awful. It’s the kind of movie that you can be glad that you saw, but will most likely never see again. Based on the hit Broadway Musical, Jersey Boys is a biographical / Jukebox Musical film that follows the life of four young men from Jersey trying to make a name for themselves in the music business in the 1950’s through the 60’s. Through clever narration, we are able to see each member’s version of the story of the band. This was clever because in the end we don’t really know the actual story; just how each member saw it.
Another positive to the movie is the overall atmosphere it creates. The lighting, setting, and cinematography all play a key role in creating the feel of the 1950’s. Every set from the recording studio to the bowling alley they base their band name off of looked wonderful and not one felt out of place or lazy. The four men, especially as kids, are also very likable. In the beginning of the film you really warm up to them and want to see them escape their dingy neighborhood and make something out of themselves. Each band member has different motivations and backstories and their diverse personalities allow them to play off one another very well. The film, to its credit, is actually very solid in its first half, as it details the lives of each of them and how they grow up.
Where the movie loses its stride is the second half. If the first half showcases the rise of the band, the second half focuses on the inevitable decline of it. After one member damages the band with their debt to an extortionist, the group loses two members, leaving the other two to reinvent themselves. What makes the movie become a bit dull at this point, is that it’s pacing is very fast. The beginning took its time, and was very careful, but the middle and the end rush as if the movie is trying to meet certain points so it can move to the next thing. This damages the whole movie because it trades time that could be spent on character development or set-ups for dramatic moments, for lame musical numbers and rushed exposition.
This unfortunately is just one problem with the movie. Another is that the movie sometimes fails to take advantage of its dramatic moments. Without giving anything away, there are some scenes in this movie that, if handled better, could have been emotionally powerful and moving. These scenes would have been more effective if they weren’t being rushed over for more story and show tunes. I’m also not blaming the songs sung. They’re all sung very well, but they sometimes cut off the flow of the film. Had a few been cut out or placed in different section, they would have been more enjoyable.
The film also suffers from its supporting cast a bit. With the exception of a very entertaining mobster played by Christopher Walken and a very funny band manager played by Mike Doyle, all the other characters are bland and forgetful. This isn’t necessarily the actor’s fault, the characters are just either not given enough screen time, or given too much screen time and become very annoying. Where the mobster and the band manager naturally fit into the story, everyone else feel like they’re “soldiers” for the story. What I mean by this is that they’re only present to make the main characters feel certain emotions or think about something, meaning that without them, the side characters just aren’t that interesting.
The movie does certain elements really well and certain elements very poorly. If you’re a hard-core movie musical fan, or even a fan of the actual band, you might like this movie. If you’re not, I might skip this one. If your curiosity is piqued about this movie, wait a few months and then watch it.