Movie Guy: Jersey Boys isn't as magical as Broadway

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Broadway musicals, so I was thrilled when it was announced that Clint Eastwood would be directing the movie version of the long-running Broadway hit, "Jersey Boys." Eastwood is a talented director and "Jersey Boys" is such a crowd-pleasing musical that the forthcoming movie musical was certain to be a hit.

It's a near miss.

It would be easy to say that "Jersey Boys," the movie simply doesn't capture the magic of "Jersey Boys," the Broadway musical. That is certainly true, but the problems with Eastwood's movie runs much deeper. This is a very uneven film, creatively and technically, and the elements that make it pop up on the stage feel clichd and inert up on a movie screen.

This is a perfect example of a stage production that doesn't transfer well to celluloid.

For those of you who don't know, "Jersey Boys" tells the rags to riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Frankie (John Lloyd Young) and his buddy, Tommy (Vincent Piazza) are neighborhood kids growing up on the mean streets of New Jersey. They seem destined for a life of crime and probably prison, but they start a band instead. The rest is rock and roll history.

"Jersey Boys" plays like a lackluster VH1 Behind the Music special, with each of the characters looking right at the camera and telling the audience their version of what really happened. That's a fun gimmick up on the stage, but it rings false when movie cameras zoom in for a close up shot.

The movie also misfires when it tries to give the film a darker edge by emphasizing the mafia influence back in Jersey. Eastwood sends mixed signals by trying to show us the dangers of mob life, but also the fun moments as exemplified by a music loving local mob boss, played with full brio by Christopher Walken.

All of this can be somewhat forgiven because despite the uneven and overlong story, the music at the heart of this tale is still pretty good. With hits like "Sherry, Baby," "Walk Like a Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry," it's hard to be too disappointed when you're singing along with the soundtrack in your head.

The four guys playing The Four Seasons have all played these roles on stage before, so the singing is top-notch. They sound just like the original group, and for the most part, their acting is good enough to keep the audience involved in the story until the next musical number comes along.

So all things considered, fans of The Four Seasons will enjoy "Jersey Boys." Fans of the Broadway musical might even get a nostalgic kick out of the film, although it certainly isn't anywhere near as good as the stage version. There are moments when the movie is very entertaining, but there are way too many mediocre and even cheesy moments to make "Jersey Boys" into a genuine movie musical hit.

2 1/2 Stars