Can the ‘Jersey Boys’ Film Match the Success of the Musical?

Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys is set to hit theaters soon, where it will arrive with lofty expectations — not only because it is Eastwood’s first film since 2011′s J. Edgar, but because it is based on the Tony award-winning musical of the same name. Matching the success of the film’s source material isn’t likely to be an easy feat.

Since opening in 2005, the Jersey Boys musical has become the 13th longest running Broadway show of all time, and has played around the world including the West End, Toronto, and Sydney. The show is currently still running, with a recent international tour leading into a national UK tour with the same creative team as the Broadway and West End productions. The UK tour is set to debut in the fall of 2014.

So it’s safe to say that Jersey Boys is still a hot property, which tells the story of the formation and eventual breakup of musical group The Four Seasons in the 1960s. Composed of  Frankie Valli (lead singer), Bob Gaudio (keyboards and tenor vocals), Tommy DeVito (lead guitar and baritone vocals), and Nick Massi (bass guitar and bass vocals), The Four Seasons released their first single, “Bermuda”/”Spanish Lace,” in 1961 and quickly rocketed in popularity before mounting problems between members and a musical shifts forced them from the spotlight. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, The Four Seasons are one of the best selling musical groups of all time and have sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide.

While film adaptions of popular musicals are nothing new to Hollywood, there’s no doubt that they can be hit or miss. For every West Side Story, Chicago, or Cabaret, you then have The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and Nine. So far, the early reactions from critics seem to indicate the former, although even the positive reviews appear rather lukewarm.

“Moderately entertaining, Eastwood’s film marches to a more methodical drummer,” writes Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. He adds, “I suspect its commercial fortunes are unlikely to rival that of the stage version.” Other reviewers are a bit more positive. “A dash of showbiz pizzazz has been lost but some welcome emotional depth has been gained in the big-screen version of the still-thriving theatrical smash,” said Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter.

Other critics are not nearly as kind. “The worst thing about this multifaceted failure is the two-time Oscar winner behind the camera. Where there ought to be a director, there’s nothing but an empty chair,” writes Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, awarding the film a score of one out of four. Andrew Barker of Variety writes, “The relative dearth of prominent musical performances turns what could have been a dancing-in-the-aisles romp into a bit of a slog.”

Still, as of this writing, Jersey Boys is sitting at 60 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with its “Top Critics” score sitting just above 70 percent after fourteen reviews. Other musical adaptions have shown that critical reception is not nearly as important as the amount of fans a particular musical has. Take Mama Mia! for example. With a critical reception that is sure to stay well below that of Jersey Boys, the ABBA-based musical adaption still managed to earn a whopping $609 million worldwide. While Jersey Boys doesn’t have nearly the fandom of Mama Mia!, it will be interesting to see if box office numbers experience a similar surge.

Jersey Boys hits theaters in June 20 and stars John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, and Vincent Piazza.

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