Because Woody Allen makes a movie every year, some of them are bound to be clunkers. Wonder Wheel is one of the clunkiest.

Set in 1950s Coney Island, the film charts the travails of Ginny (Kate Winlset), a failed actress on her second marriage who works as a waitress in a clam house. Her husband, Humpty (Jim Belushi) runs a merry-go-round and they live in a cramped apartment right above the smells, noise and neon of a big amusement park. It’s a clever and colorful setting in a dull, flat film desperately in need of cleverness.

Ginny and Humpty are short on money and romantic chemistry. Their home life is a drab loop of perpetual testiness. It doesn’t help that Ginny’s young son from her previous marriage, Richie (Jack Gore), is an arsonist-in-training who ignites a pyro trail whenever the mood strikes.

Ginny’s dull doings brighten when she embarks on an affair with a hunky lifeguard named Mickey (Justin Timberlake). Mickey is not your standard-issue beachy beefcake. A Navy vet from World War II, he aspires to be a playwright and is earning his master’s at NYU. He lends a literary and intellectual light to Ginny’s worldview. He also serves as the film’s narrator, speaking directly to the camera.

The proceedings become further complicated when a young beauty named Carolina (Juno Temple) appears. She is Humpty’s long estranged daughter from his first marriage, and he has not spoken to her since she ran off and married a gangster. Now she is on the run from said gangster, and some thugs are looking to rub her out.

Ginny, who is wallowing in insecurity and dreads her approaching 40th birthday, suddenly has a new rival in Carolina. Will Mickey spurn her? Can she smooth things out with Humpty? Can she keep a grip on her life?

Hearing that the wonderfully talented Winslet was starring in a Woody Allen film about a woman unraveling, filmgoers could be forgiven if they thought Wonder Wheel might be something akin to Allen’s terrific Blue Jasmine, in which Cate Blanchett brilliantly played a neurotic, lying, conniving, self-obsessed soul (and walked off with the best actress Oscar).

In Blue Jasmine, Allen created a clever and intriguing intersection of lives, relationships and anxieties.

In Wonder Wheel, his put-on characters don’t really relate to each other in meaningful ways. How can we feel a connection to the characters when they aren’t even connecting with each other?

Wonder Wheel is a straight drama. No laughs here (at least not intentional ones). And for all of Winslet’s cinematic powers, she can’t save a role that just isn’t in the script.

Belushi seems to be doing his earnest best to masquerade as a dramatic actor, but he is also shortchanged by an underwritten role. It doesn’t help that his blustery Humpty is a kind of Ralph Kramden-Willy Loman mix of uneven tones.

Allen’s characters refer to the greatness of Anton Chekhov and Eugene O’Neill, and at times his film plays like a play (albeit light years from the dramas of Chekhov and O’Neill).

His swing-for-the-fences aspirations come up short. Wonder Wheel feels forced and artificial. The key scenes could have used rewrites, or at least some additional takes.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or coconnor@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.