Either Clint Eastwood had the flu or he wanted to distance himself from “Jersey Boys” as much as possible while still managing to direct it. Either way, it’s impossible not to sense a certain coldness on the part of Eastwood here — you just don’t feel love emanating from the frames in the manner of his previous films such as “Million Dollar Baby” or “Bird.”

It’s as though he got the job done and put it behind him as quickly as possible, which is regrettable, because there’s so much in the source material to make this story soar.

“Jersey Boys” traces the meteoric rise of the The Four Seasons, a 1960s vocal group. At one point The Four Seasons were bigger than The Beatles recording some of the most gorgeously sweet, memorable tunes of the twentieth century (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”). Listening to the lyrics now, it’s easy to laugh at the cheesiness, but at the same time you’re struck by both the endearing innocence of the era and the four lads from New Jersey who, as legend goes, sang their first number huddled together under a street lamp.

Jersey Boys
Director Clint Eastwood
Run Time 136 minutes
Language English
Opens Sept. 27

“Jersey Boys” is based on the hit Broadway musical that opened in 2005 and is still going strong. Perhaps Eastwood was uncomfortable working with unoriginal content, because he seems OK with mimicking the stage version and creating scenes of such artifice that everything and everyone looks like they’ve been dipped in a vat of lacquer.

Marshall Brickman (“Annie Hall”) wrote the Broadway musical and also helmed the screenwriting team for Eastwood’s film. As a former Woody Allen collaborator, Brickman is in his element depicting the working-class/mafia/entertainment-industry pipeline.

A nugget of delight comes when actor Joe Pesci — excellently portrayed here by Joseph Russo — makes his appearance as a rock ‘n’ roll-loving industry insider; he’s the one who introduces songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to the band, paving their way to future stardom.

What works best in “Jersey Boys” is the narrative ploy that was also used in the original musical: Each of The Four Seasons talks directly to the camera, sharing with the audience their own version of what really happened.

Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) is the one to watch — he has the Jersey accent down. Tommy gets the group together as he grooms himself to be a gangster. He spots the genius lurking in his pal Frankie Castellucio (John Lloyd Young) — the little guy with the unforgettable falsetto. Frankie later changes his clunky last name to Valli and fills nightclubs with girls clamoring to hear his voice.

It’s one hell of a story and there’s a whole lot of music to enjoy, too, but Eastwood often makes seemingly random detours between the past and future that take huge bites out of what could have been a densely flavored, beautiful pie.

For a chance to win one of five “Jersey Boys” T-shirts, visit jtimes.jp/film.

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