That Thing You Do Review
That Thing You Do is always going to be most famous for being Tom Hanks' debut as a writer and director, whatever else people may make of the film. It's a fairly simple show, and one that's a trifle clichéd... but it's not necessarily any the worse for this. Set in the 60s, it chronicles the rise and fall of a pop band that starts off as 'The Oneders', and then soon after clarifies its name to 'The Wonders' – a little pun on the fact that these musicians are destined to be one-hit wonders (or that's how I read the names anyway). The main character of the film is Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott). He works in his father's electrical appliance store, but we immediately know he doesn't fit in there; he's a little too beatnik and into his music to really concentrate on or be enthused by a career in sales. He listens to jazz and plays his drums at night, often forgetting his duties as a 'responsible' son. When a local group of musicians – fronted by a friend of his, Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) – loses their drummer (Giovanni Ribisi) to a silly accident, the lads beg Guy to step in and help them win a local talent competition and therefore some fast cash.
Of course, the story doesn't end there. Guy adds a little more beat to the band's token song, unsurprisingly called 'That Thing You Do', turning it from a bit of a dirge to a bouncing, catchy number that the local kids love. Before long, the group is signed to Play-Tone Records, under the auspices of a top producer (Tom Hanks, playing a character amusingly named 'Mister White') and soon their song is rising up the charts and forming the crux of a concert tour. Obviously, with this success comes tensions, most obviously between Jimmy and his long-time girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), who often does as much for the band as her boyfriend has. The final section of the film plays out these tensions and follows the group as they are confronted with the task of growing up and making tough decisions.
You could probably pretty much plot out the film yourself... there are no twists, just a fairly sweet tale of a group of teenagers getting their dream and then working out where to go from there. The cast all give solid performances, especially Tom Everett Scott and Johnathon Schaech as the two main protagonists. There is little to say about Tom Hanks' role as it's a straightforward romp for him – perhaps a very sensible route to go when you also have to direct the film you're in.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 and the transfer is in fact anamorphic. The picture quality is good and there are very few flaws at all, with good contrasts and nice bright colours that seem to be very in keeping with the tone of the film. It's a little on the soft side, but that also seems somewhat in keeping with the romanticised view of the story and this particular slice of the past that we are given within this film.
This is a film that is fundamentally based around music and therefore, only rightly, it has a pleasant Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which does a good job in presenting the dialogue, background music and foreground music so that none overrides the other and each is clear throughout.
The extras include a number of trailers for the film, which are all basically the same trailer but in different languages (Spanish, Italian and English).
There is also a short featurette (easily under 15 minutes) which is pretty much your standard promotional fluff, with very little content of any substance. There are a few interesting moments of filming and a couple words from some of the stars and from Tom Hanks, so it's certainly worth watching... but don't be surprised by the huge amounts of spin here, as the 'featurette' was obviously designed for the sole purpose of relentlessly pushing the film.
The final extra takes the form of two music videos, highlighting the two songs that are included in full in the film. However, if you find yourself wanting to watch the music video for 'That Thing You Do' (a song that is somewhat overplayed within the film) just after watching this DVD, then I think you probably need help!
Just as a final note, the disc is both region 2 and 4.
That Thing You Do is a fun, sweet film. Well acted, well cast, and surprisingly easy on the eye and ear (especially as the eponymous song does appear a lot!). For me personally it'll never stand out as a remarkable piece of film-making, though, because the story is just too formulaic, and seems a little rushed at the expense of characterisation for the minor players. It's an easy watch though, and will always hold interest for those following the career and skills of Tom Hanks.