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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/27/01

That Thing You Do!
1996 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

That Thing You Do! Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/C+

Specs and Features

105 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 34:14, at the start of chapter 12), Amaray keep case packing, "behind-the-scenes" EPK-style featurette, 2 music videos (for That Thing You Do and Dance with Me Tonight by The Wonders), theatrical trailers (in English, Spanish, Italian versions), TV spots, film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.0 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Jimmy: "I don't know. I'm reluctant to sign anything that has to do with my music..."

Lenny: "Are you crazy?! A man in a really nice camper wants to put our song on the radio! Gimmie a pen... I'm signing!"

Go back in time almost 40 years to the early days of rock and roll. Before today's flurry of boy bands, such as The Backstreet Boys (ack!) and N'Sync (blech!), there were "teen sensation" bands that drove pubescent girls wild. That Thing You Do! is Tom Hanks' pet project and homage to a more innocent time in America. He made it because... well, he could (after back-to-back Oscars and millions in ticket sales, are you gonna tell him no?). Hanks wrote, directed and acted in this film, which chronicles the overnight rise and fall of a fictional "one-hit-wonder" teen sensation band in 1964. And man... is this ever one very cool flick!

That Thing You Do! tells the story of a young Erie, PA garage band called the Oneders (which is supposed to be pronounced "Wonders," but everyone pronounces as "Oh-needers"), that hit it big at a local talent show with an original tune called That Thing You Do (what else would it be called?). They quickly develop a small fan-base, and catch the attention of a regional talent scout for the major labels. As their song starts getting heavy radio play, the band gets swept into a big time recording contract with Play-Tone Records, courtesy of hot shot manager Mr. White (Tom Hanks). Over the next several weeks, The Wonders (no more Oneders, thank you) become more popular than they ever imagined. They live the high life on tour and soak up the attention. But when the very different personalities and priorities of the band members clash, will The Wonders fall into music history oblivion, forever to be known as one-hit-wonders?

That Thing You Do! works so well because of two things: the script and the casting. Hanks' screenplay is fresh and witty, and turns what could be just another rock n' roll flick into a fun, sometimes wild ride, featuring endearing characters and genuinely funny moments. Helping this cause is a very talented ensemble cast, that injects each member of the band with a unique personality. Steve Zahn steals this film as Lenny, the lead guitarist. Zahn's spontaneity in his humor and delivery are worth the price of this disc alone. Tom Everett Scott, who plays the unpretentious drummer, Guy, is the lead character of the film. Much of the movie is seen through his eyes. Johnathon Schaech portrays Jimmy, the arrogant front man of The Wonders, and the core talent behind the band. Rounding out the cast are Ethan Embry, as the shy bass player, and the always lovely and talented Liv Tyler as Faye (Jimmy's girlfriend), who tags along on tour as the costume mistress.

Presented on DVD in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, That Thing You Do! could look a bit sharper. The film looks noticeably soft, with sometimes slightly muted colors and a bit of a dark character. On the up side, the video is very smooth and free of any blemishes or source print defects. Compression artifacting is never an issue and neither is artificial edge enhancement.

The disc's Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack is energetic and engaging during musical passages, filling the listening space with jangly guitar riffs and powerful drum beats. During quieter moments, dialog is natural and easy to understand, and ambience effects are presented subtly, but noticeably.

As for the extra features, look for a 13-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette, hosted by former MTV personality Martha Quinn. The featurette is little more than an EPK piece attempting to sell the film, but it does offer a couple of interesting tidbits over and above the typical promo reel. A pair of music videos for That Thing You Do and Dance with Me Tonight by The Wonders are also featured on the disc. The videos are live performances of the songs taken from different parts of the film. A handful of theatrical trailers can also be found, which are presented in English, Spanish and Italian. Finally, a few American TV spots appear as well.

Whether you're a fan of comedies or rock and roll flicks, you'll love That Thing You Do!. We already knew that Tom Hanks was a talented actor, but with this film he proved himself a worthy writer and director as well. And Fox has given us a DVD version of this film that, while not perfect, is definitely worth the cash. Don't miss it!

Greg Suarez

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