Clint Eastwood brings his tough-guy bona fides and unadorned directing style to "Jersey Boys," an adaptation of the Broadway musical about the rise and fall of the 1960s singing group the Four Seasons. According to reviews, that peculiar pairing has resulted in a movie that's pleasant and entertaining enough but doesn't quite hit the high notes.
The Seattle Times' Moira Macdonald writes that "Jersey Boys" is "always likable and often great fun, but it's an uneasy mix of stage and screen. It trips, fairly often, but never falls." As director, Eastwood "brings a clear affection for the music to the film," and his decision to cast most of his main actors from stage versions of the show "mostly pays off."
Perhaps not surprisingly, Macdonald says the movie "feels theatrical in many ways — the Jersey streets look like sets, and a late scene features perhaps the most fake-looking snow ever to fall on screen — and its final moment is basically a curtain call. The energy of the music and the performers, as well as numerous unexpected moments of wit, carries it along; you wish it were a little better, but you nonetheless enjoy."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls the film version of "Jersey Boys" a "different, more sedate animal" than its Broadway counterpart. Being "full of genial showbiz cliches and mobbed-up sweeties, it's an easy movie to take."
On the other hand, Phillips adds, "It is also an uncertainly stylized [movie], with a drab sense of atmosphere at odds with the material's punchy theatrics. Like the recent film version of 'August: Osage County' (now there's a musical!), 'Jersey Boys' labors under a case of directorial miscasting, that of legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood at the helm of a whiz-bang jukebox tuner."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle says it's "a likable and not overly romanticized portrait" and adds that "the music maintains an exaggerated appeal throughout." As director, Eastwood "turns down the light and mutes the celebration. It's the right strategy for a story whose entire success depends on its honesty, and whose honesty depends on not turning these guys into heroes."
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gives a glowing review, commending Eastwood for "adding dramatic heft to this hit-filled, perfectly cast big-screen adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical." The director "doesn't do anything especially fancy with the staging of the numbers, which works just fine."
He adds, "'Jersey Boys' tells a familiar story, yes — but rarely told this well and with this much heart and soul."
On the other hand, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Williams gives a withering assessment. He writes: "Now that I have suffered through 134 minutes of 'Jersey Boys,' I owe apologies to every music-themed movie at which I've lobbed rotten tomatoes, from 'Grease 2' and 'Glitter' to 'Rent' and 'Rock of Ages.' If I live to be as old as Clint Eastwood, I will never witness a more turgid, tedious and tin-eared assault on popular culture than this gaseous misfire."
Most reviews fall somewhere between Lumenick's and Williams'. That includes the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, who writes, "'Jersey Boys' is a strange movie, and it's a Clint Eastwood enterprise, both reasons to see it."
While it's "a redemption narrative that's got a good beat, and you can dance to it," Dargis also says, "It's disappointing that Mr. Eastwood, a director who can convey extraordinary depths of feeling in his work, didn't do more with this material."