June 19, 2014 1:12 pm
Updated: June 19, 2014 2:11 pm

What the critics are saying: ‘Jersey Boys’

TORONTO — The big screen adaptation of Jersey Boys, which opened on Broadway in 2005, has arrived in cinemas.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars some of the stage musical’s original actors and chronicles the rise and struggles of ’60s vocal group The Four Seasons.

Will fans of the stage show want to rush to see the story retold on screen? Here’s a look at some of the reviews.

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“Why is the Jersey Boys film a turgid botch?,” asked Richard Corliss of TIME.

“At 2 hr. 14 min. the movie is nearly as long as the Jersey Boys show, but with much more talking and a lot less singing,” he wrote.

“By concentrating on the group’s personal wrangling, to the near exclusion of their songs, Clint Eastwood has jettisoned the joy and made this a one-Season movie: winter in New Jersey. And, man, that’s bleak.”

Victoria Alexander of the Las Vegas Informer seemed to agree, calling Jersey Boys “a sloppy, lazy, enery-free back lot production.”

Alexander wrote: “Everything is wrong except the music. The dreadful ‘dee’s,’ ‘dem’s‘ and ‘does’ are as shameful as the clumsy acting. Eastwood proves he has limitations. Eastwood must have let his many assistant directors direct, or just let every production department do whatever they wanted. Eastwood’s Italians are caricatures, the sets are all cardboard, and the emotions paper-thin.”

Jocelyn Noveck of The Associated Press opined the movie is “distinctly uneven, hugely appealing at times and oddly pedestrian, even cheesy, at others.”

Noveck wrote: “The dialogue, too, sometimes sounds overly, well, stagey. And a key convention of the show — band members breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly — is used unevenly, abandoned for long stretches and suddenly popping up when it doesn’t feel needed.”

She complained about the hour-long wait for the first big musical number and criticized technical aspects of the film, suggesting it “veers between creative and oddly mediocre, namely in a driving sequence that looks so fake, you wonder if it was intentional.”

Noveck also took issue with a scene in which Frankie Valli sings “My Eyes Adored You” to his school-aged daughter.

“You have to wonder if the filmmakers thought about this prominent lyric, certainly not meant to be about a child: ‘Though I never laid a hand on you, my eyes adored you.'”

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap also noted the scene.

“It’s forgivable that the tune pops up in the 1960s (even though it wasn’t released until 1975), but a song about a childhood crush sounds creepy when it’s a dad singing it to his child, particularly since they leave in the ‘Though I never laid a hand on you’ line. One would have assumed you didn’t.”

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

It’s an observation echoed by Mike LaSalle of San Francisco Gate.

“In one scene, Valli sings ‘My Eyes Adored You’ to his daughter 10 years before it was written. Then, weirdly, this becomes the theme associated with the daughter, even though the song is about a boyhood crush, hardly appropriate sentiments for a man to be directing at his own child.”

LaSalle pointed out other time travel issues in the film.

“There are some jarring notes, some modern expressions you would not have heard decades ago, and some anachronisms,” he wrote. “In 1951, someone makes a joke about Topo Gigio’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a full decade before that puppet’s debut.”

At The Telegraph, Robbie Collin called Jersey Boys “a film so grey and musty, it should probably be inspected on public health grounds for mildew.”

Collin wrote: “The problem is immediately and heartbreakingly apparent. Rather than embracing the jangling song-and-dance numbers that made the live version box-office catnip, Eastwood sheepishly tidies them into the background, treating the project instead like a standard music-industry biopic.

“In fact, the only fully fledged production number in the entirety of Jersey Boys appears during the film’s end credits: it consists of the cast shuffling awkwardly down a plywood street to the strains of ‘December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’, and may be the most miserably heterosexual musical routine in the history of cinema.”

The Hollywood Reporter reviewer Todd McCarthy singled out the overall look of Jersey Boys.

“The feeling of the studio backlot is inescapable,” he wrote, “and there are a couple of Jersey neighbourhood vistas that simply look too California, including one with mountains visible in the far background.”

Digital Spy reviewer Emma Dibdin opined Jersey Boys “lacks the immediacy of live theatre” and isn’t “particularly cinematic, unfolding at an awkward pace.”

Dibdin conceded: “The winsome cast and often tongue-in-cheek script still make for an entertaining, if overlong, old-fashioned musical.”

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post is a fan.

“Clint Eastwood makes our day as the seemingly miscast director of Jersey Boys, adding dramatic heft to this hit-filled, perfectly cast big-screen adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical,” Lumenick wrote.

Jersey Boys tells a familiar story, yes — but rarely told this well and with this much heart and soul.”

BELOW: Watch the cast of Jersey Boys on Global’s The Morning Show.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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