Imagine Goodfellas without much in the way of stakes, and you’ll get Clint Eastwood’s pleasingly square and forgettable adaptation of the Tony-feted 2006 jukebox musical, which charts the rise and fall of the Four Seasons. As in the stage show, the story is told in Rashomonesque fashion, with the founding members of the group—Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen)—all breaking the fourth wall to comment on the action. It’s a half-assed gimmick that Eastwood and his screenwriters—Broadway holdovers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice—deploy haphazardly. (Valli doesn’t even get his turn until the dewy-eyed final scene.) This fits the mood of the movie, though, which comes off like one of those meandering reminiscences you indulge during an extended family get-together.
The band has a colorful history that involves money mismanagement, mob ties (Christopher Walken lends his inimitable cadence to gangster patron Gyp DeCarlo) and even actor Joe Pesci (impersonated here by Joseph Russo), who was instrumental in bringing Gaudio to the group’s attention. Yet Eastwood directs each scene with a creaky monotony that nullifies most of the drama. Even when the characters ratchet up the colorful, goombah-opera invective or the film shuffles back and forth in time to encompass the various perspectives, things feel sleepy and sedate. That leaves the musical performances of peppy hits like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” to pick up the slack, so it was wise to retain Tony winner Young as the angel-voiced Valli. Neither a decrepit aesthetic nor laughable old-age makeup hampers this effusive performer’s inherent charm and charisma. He makes the tunes come alive despite the cinematic embalming.
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