That Thing You Do! (1996)


If only songs were as catchy and simple as this one.

In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry) — become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

Writer/director Tom Hanks is obviously a guy we all know, love, and care about when it comes to his acting but his writing and directing maybe was pushing it a little too far. However, have no fear, Hanks still is good no matter what he does.

What I liked about this flick was that the simple premise is showed in a very fun, entertaining, and nice way just like the bubblegum pop days of the early 60’s were before all of the drugs started popping on in and out. The story starts off as your usual “band gets bigger and bigger” story-line which was fun to watch because of how charming this script was, and the film keeps that charm going on throughout the whole flick. Hanks does throw in a little bit of satire against the whole music business, but it’s nothing too much to where he seems to be aiming too high.

But enough about the script, let’s just get to the real reason why anybody really remembers this movie and that is for the title song. It’s so catchy, so fun, and is played probably about 7 times throughout the whole flick but it’s not like “I’ve Got You Babe” in ‘Groundhog Day’, to where every time we hear it we want burn every single copy left of that song, it’s a song that’s just really good and actually seems like a song that would be on heavy-rotation during that time-period. There are a couple of other tracks in this flick that are pretty good, but this is the only one that I can remember having stuck in my head after it was over and while hell, even I’m writing this I kind of humming it now as we speak.

However, as good as good as this song may be, it’s also one of the bigger problems with this flick. The direction, writing, and attention is detail is fine the way it ought to be but there’s nothing else that really stands-out from this flick other than the song. It also didn’t help that by the end, there are a little bit too many parts where the film starts to dive into some lame melodrama and just gets really soapy and unbelievable. Then again, I wasn’t looking for anything that seemed like a realistic take on the lives of pop music stars during the 60’s, I just wanted a fun and entertaining flick, which is basically what I got.

I also liked how Hanks put the main focus on the dude that is essentially the back-bone of the band, the drummer. Being a drummer myself, I thought that this was pretty cool to see considering it’s always either the singer or guitarist in the band that hogs all the spot-light. Also, Tom Everett Scott is pretty good as Shades. I’ve seen this dude in plenty of other stuff but this is the only film that I can remember him best in because he’s pretty likable and seems like a dude I would love to jam with due to his love of jazz music. The guy also had a pretty good technique even though it wasn’t really him drumming obviously.

The other band-mates are all pretty good here with the likes of Steve Zahn playing his usual funny/sarcastic-ass character here as the lead guitarist; Ethan Embry being a lot of fun to watch as the semi-mentally challenged bass player aptly named T.B. Player; and Johnathon Schaech probably being the weakest of the bunch as the singer, because when shit starts to hit the fan for this band, he really just seems like he’s starting all of it, just to start it. Tom Hanks is also great as the band’s manager, Mr. White, which also probably helps considering he has the film’s best lines and seems like a dude I could trust with all of my money and fame; Liv Tyler is nice to watch, as always, here as Faye; and it was also really funny to see a very young Charlize Theron as Shades’ girlfriend. There are so many other people in this flick that I could mention but it’s honestly a lot more fun to just point at and think about who he/she is during the film.

Consensus: Though there’s nothing all that spectacular about the flick, That Thing You Do! is still a fun, charming, and well-acted tale of what all bands during the early days of the 60’s all dreamed, hoped for, and had to go through. Also, that song is just catchy as hell.

7/10=Rental!!

9 comments

  1. You’re on a roll, Dan!

    As an old guy who has been connected to the music world for a (very) long time, I could totally relate to, and appreciate the brilliant, spot-on accuracy of this film. I agree that the cast is incredible and it’s fun to see some of today’s marquee names in their early roles. And yes, if pop music was still this innocent, fun and infectious.

    -Chris

  2. I agree that there’s nothing adherently spectacular about this movie, but it just feels… fun, you know? It’s breezy and clean and enjoyable. I really dig it. I liked your review a lot, particularly hearing things from the prospective of a drummer.

    Also, I love when Tom Hanks throws his arms out to the beat at that one performance. Hilarious.

  3. I liked the film well enough, but I got sick of the song by the time the film was done. Maybe this was on purpose in order to duplicate the way one hit wonder songs are played so much people quickly get sick of them and they disappear.

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