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Jersey Boys

You've all seen the play? I can imagine Clint Eastwood saying to his cast and crew on the first day of shooting Jersey Boys.Yeah, they respond.Good, he'd then smile. Do that. And they'd never see him again.

Aside from dropping by three quarters of the way through production to insist on a visual reference to his golden years, Eastwood doesn't seem to have a ton to say about how his film adaptation of the Frankie Valli story should take form. Scenes throughout the movie seem to have been set and blocked in the fabric of Jackson Pollock, with actors scattered about the stage, backs to the camera, faces overlapping in a horribly distracting fashion.

Such scenes are woven together so tenuously, banking with desperation on the hope that everybody watching cares about anything that might happen to the four boys in question, because there's really no contextual throughline. Plot turns, conflicts, and whole characters are introduced abjectly; each serves less as an emotional beat than it does as a segue into the next musical number. But while these musical numbers might be able to carry a haphazard story on the Broadway stage, the magic is far from our grasp in Eastwood's movie.

Despite an R rating for a few f**ks here and there, the film is as squeaky clean as the tunes of the Four Seasons. Even the mobsters with whom Frankie and Tommy associate - a riotous Christopher Walken plays their own personal godfather - are of the family friendly variety: the only drop of blood spilled in the film is the result of a botched shave, and the only act of larceny an episode of comical ineptitude. The sugar is coated so heavily that when the movie does attempt to get deep and dark, we're obscenely confused. And the music sure as hell doesn't help matters in the drama department.

Still, Jersey Boys manages an inscrutable tolerability, plodding by on the charms of half of its starring team - Vincent Piazza is often jarring but frequently enchanting as undiagnosed psychopath Tommy DeVito, and Erich Bergen is a lot of fun as straight-laced Bob Gaudio (we can accredit his comic timing here to his preadolescent screen debut on The Dana Carvey Show) - and an everpresent Muppety ambiance surrounding these wannabe crooks (of the Frankie and Mugsy variety) turned wannabe stars (of the Frankie and Dean variety).

So, we're left with more of a smile than a frown. The film lacks any definitive structure or interesting style, but it manages an affable energy nonetheless. Not unlike the music of the Four Seasons, actually.