As it does not have an emotional core, Jersey Boys fails to resonate, even if it still entertains.
Chief amongst its missteps is the consistent decision to bypass characterization in favor of lengthy (and frequent) musical numbers. Consider Frankie Valli’s (John Lloyd Young, superb) family; until they are all teenagers, Jersey Boys does not bother to show how many children the singer has. Even when we see them, we still don’t know how old they are, or whether or not there are more of them.
Therein is why every scene with Francine (Freya Tingley at the child’s oldest iteration) fails. We don’t know the character, and are unconvinced that Frankie cares all that much about her, which means the would be emotion never sparks. Instead the family drama rapidly becomes boring melodrama.
The trend continues, especially with female characters. None of them have personality; in fact, their names don’t even register.
Many of the male characters are poorly developed, as well. Consider Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), who is frustratingly stereotypical, and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), whose pent up frustration might have made for gripping conflict, but instead becomes petulant whining.
The film often suffers when actors break the fourth wall to narrate the story, partially because such narration is abandoned for long stretches, partially because there is little cohesive reason narrators change when they do, and mostly because it tells us what the movie could show without the gimmick.
Yet Jersey Boys is still entertaining enough.
Though they contribute to the picture’s emotional void, the musical numbers are fun to watch.
The actors are very good. Special mention to Young and Vincent Piazza (Tommy De Vito).
Director Clint Eastwood and writer Marshall Brickman’s non-linear structure proves effective.
There is enough humor mixed into the plot.
A during end-credit dance number is favorably reminiscent of 1950s and ’60s musical films.
And so forth.
Jersey Boys has enough merits to make it watchable, just not enough to make us care all that much about it.