Fox // 1996 // 155 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // May 14th, 2007
In every life there comes a time when that dream you dream becomes that thing you do.
I guess it's a dream that a lot of people share. Authors, actors, singers, musicians -- we all dream of getting that one break that propels us to infinity and beyond. No matter how many walls we hit or slopes we slide down, there's always that dream, that belief that it could happen that makes us all do that thing we do.
Life is good and the living is easy in Erie, Pa., in 1964. Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott, ER) works at the family appliance store by day and practices drums by night. He has a beautiful girlfriend (Charlize Theron, Monster) and a friend named Lenny (Steve Zahn, Employee of the Month), who invites Guy to sit in with his band when their drummer breaks his arm. The "One-Ders" are set to perform a song written by lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech, Kiss the Bride) at a local talent competition, but when Guy gets a hold of it, he turns the ballad into an up-tempo pop hit.
>From there, it's one lucky break after another as the boys are shepherded by a small-town talent scout who gets "That Thing You Do" on the radio and the One-ders a gig at a rock 'n roll show. Enter Mr. White (Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code, a scout for Play-Tone records, who signs the boys and sends them on tour.
Guy, Jimmy, Lenny, the bass player (Ethan Embry, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), and Jimmy's girl Faye (Liv Tyler, Lord of the Rings) can hardly believe their good fortune. As "That Thing You Do" rises on the charts, the gang gets whisked off to Hollywood to appear in a movie and finally on to the Hollywood Showcase, where the world gets to meet the "Wonders."
But as it often happens, the band is quickly torn apart by personality conflicts, artistic differences, and the lure of fame and fortune. Will the boys work out their differences or will they end up as one-hit Wonders?
I usually begin my reviews by filling in all of the information you see in the sidebar. Pretty cut and dried, most of it, but on this movie, I totally got hung up on the slot that says genre. Comedy, I wrote. But it's not laugh-out-loud funny and it's pretty serious near the end, so I erased comedy and wrote drama. But it's pretty funny for a drama. I smile throughout the movie and Lenny's "Go Fish" scene cracks me up every time. I came to the conclusion that That Thing You Do is a romantic comedy without the romance. It's on the light side of funny, with plenty of human emotion and it is about passion, even if it's for music and not a girl.
The movie is the writing and directorial debut of star Tom Hanks -- and he does all three things quite well. From the very first images, he manages to capture the innocence of the early Sixties and the easy pace of small-town America. There's no sex, no drugs, and no real rock 'n roll. This is the idyllic Sixties, where people are shocked to see a store open on Sundays and sneaking out to the local spaghetti place to hear the band is the worst thing a girl could do.
It's a great ride, with viewers living vicariously through the young leads as they stumble to the top of the record charts wide-eyed and open-mouthed. It's a terrific image, suddenly finding yourself sharing a stage with the people you've only ever seen on TV. The four young leads totally capture this sense of awe.
The real star of the movie, though, is the soundtrack. Since it's all about the concept of the one-hit wonder, the movie had to have one hit song that could be played over and over again (eight times just off the top of my head). Boy, did they get it right when they wrote "That Thing You Do." The song rivals anything on the pop charts in the early Sixties and I never tire of hearing it. There are several other fun sound-alike tunes in the mix including "Mr. Downtown," a kind of "Secret Agent Man"/"Lonely Town" hybrid, and the Supremes' copycat tune, "When You Hold My Hand, You Hold My Heart." The songs are so perfect, I really wish there had been a special feature about how that aspect came to be but, alas, there is not.
There are a couple of interesting special features on this new two-disc set. "The Wonders -- Big in Japan" is a neat little feature covering the Japanese press tour for the movie. At the time, the four leads were unknown actors, so they're bowled over by the whole experience from riding in a private jet with Tom Hanks to the fanfare in a language they don't understand. "That Thing You Do Reunion" features present-day Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Ethan Embry, and Charlize Theron hanging out together discussing the movie. It's casual, and it's nice to hear their fond recollections. Steve Zahn adds his thoughts, but these were filmed separately and cut into the piece. "The Story of the Wonders" is an introduction to the characters and how they fit together. "Making That Thing You Do" takes viewers behind the scenes with Tom Hanks as he talks about how he came up with the movie, then goes to casting and shows some rare footage of the actors learning how to become a band. "HBO First Look -- The Making of That Thing You Do" is a movie overview hosted by MTV's Martha Quinn that was aired when the movie was in theaters. A holdover from the original DVD release, it contains much of the same footage and interviews that you'll find in the other features.
"Feel Alright -- Video" is just plain confusing. It's a montage of scenes from the movie, set to a song that's not in the movie. The confusion is made worse by the fact that it uses tons of the deleted footage from the film. Point?
The movie is packaged in a snap case with a disc flipper in the center and, not surprisingly, the new box art is very Tom Hanks-centric. The navigation menu is a clever low-tech looking record player with a working speed dial. Disc One holds both the theatrical and the director's cut of the movie; Disc Two houses the special features.
As far as the extended director's cut goes, there's a good half-hour of added material and not all of it is extraneous, as is often the case with cut scenes. Several of the replaced scenes explain plot holes and references that make no sense otherwise. As a fan of the film, it was nice to see the puzzle pieces fit together.
Of the additional half-hour of footage in this director's cut, a good portion of it belongs to Charlize Theron. In the theatrical cut, her role as Guy's flighty girlfriend Tina is fairly small and always smacked of something missing. The something turned out to be a half-dozen scenes detailing her relationship with Guy and her infatuation with her dentist. The movie is better without this subplot and I'm sure they were added back in purely based on the fact that Theron is now one hot number in Hollywood.
The quality of the video and audio on this DVD is also a notch below standard. The movie is grainy and I found the audio, particularly in the added scenes, to be muddled in spots.
The biggest mystery about this DVD package is the magical disappearing commentary track. According to the description on Amazon, there should be a commentary by Tom Everett Scott, Jonathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, and Liv Tyler. Nope. There's also supposed to be a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and there isn't.
Sounds like the press paperwork went out before the DVD was finalized and that's a shame, because a commentary by the cast would have done much to enhance this special edition.
The question is always, is it worth the upgrade? If you're a die-hard fan of the movie, yes. The added scenes will fill in the gaps and the extra special features are fun. If you've never seen the movie, this version will make more sense plot-wise, but it runs a little long and is slow in spots because of the extra Tina storyline. If you're just a casual fan and you own the movie, don't bother with the upgrade. The pace of the original release DVD is right on and you won't be missing out on anything major.
This court predicts that That Thing You Do!: Tom Hanks' Director's Cut will be the fastest-rising DVD in Play-Tone history.
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 155 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Making That Thing You Do!
* The Story of The Wonders
* That Thing You Do! Reunion
* The Wonders: Big In Japan!
* HBO First Look: The Making of That Thing You Do!
* "Feel Alright" Video
* Trailers and TV Spots