A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jersey Boys -- a heartwarming, catchy, moving musical about the rise of singer Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- hews closely to the Broadway production it's based on. Expect plenty of period-accurate smoking and drinking, as well as lots of swearing (everything from "f--k" and "s--t" to "a--hole"), but although the movie touches on mature themes -- working for the Mob, losing your virginity, the death of a child -- it's neither graphic nor gratuitous in either violence or sexual content (there's no nudity). Teens are shown trying to pull off heists, and one man is seemingly shot at point blank. One character in particular is also in and out of jail, and the female characters aren't very deep, but ultimately there are worthy messages about loyalty, commitment, and hard work.
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What's the story?
For years, Belleville, New Jersey, born-and-bred Frankie Castelluccio, aka Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), has been waiting for the limelight to finally shine on his band. Led by his friend, the charming, rough-around-the-edges Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), the Four Lovers -- or whatever name the group has adopted that day -- have been waiting for the big time. After all, Frankie has the voice of an angel, and Tommy has the swagger of a man who knows how to work the system and who's in with big shots like mobster Gyp de Carlo (Christopher Walken). But it's not until they invite songwriter/keyboard player Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to join them that the group is able to find their "sound," aided by their discerning producer, Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), and truly become the Four Seasons. And then the hits start charting: "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Jersey pride runs through their veins as thick as talent does, but the road to success is paved by disappointments, heartache, and secrets in this film based on the same-named musical.
Is it any good?
JERSEY BOYS may not be as magical as the stage version, but it has plenty of magic. Director Clint Eastwood sticks closely to the book of the Broadway musical in this faithful re-telling of singer Valli's rise to the top. And for the most part, the move from stage to screen is, like Valli's iconic voice, as smooth as can be, albeit punctured in parts by time jumps that don't quite make sense (Valli had more than one daughter? Was he really with Lorraine, a journalist he meets on the road, that long?) for an audience unfamiliar with the Broadway version or Valli's story. (But major kudos to Lloyd Young, who starred on Broadway as Valli and is the one truly meant for the role.)
The first act, despite brilliant musical moments, doesn't quite gain momentum. But then come the songs that made the Four Seasons: "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and many more. Suddenly, as one character says, "all there was was the music," and the film shifts. The audience sinks with the group's lows and soars with its highs, all accompanied by a familiar soundtrack that will likely unleash your own memories. And the film carries a resonant message even for those who've never heard of the Four Seasons (who are you?): You win, you lose, you live.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Jersey Boys portrays the impact of fame and success. How do the characters change over the course of the movie?
What do you think might have happened to the Four Seasons if they tried to make it today? How is society different? What impact would modern media have on their success (or lack thereof)?
If you've seen the musical, how does the movie version compare? How are they the same, and how are they different? What works better on stage, and what's a good fit for the big screen?
Why is Frankie drawn to Tommy even though he gets him in trouble? Why is Tommy so invested in Frankie? What binds the four members of the Four Seasons to each other, despite all they go through?
- In theaters: June 20, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 11, 2014
- Cast: John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout
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