Tom Hanks writes, directs and co-stars in this refreshing, big-hearted comedy that captures the overnight triumph of an American rock band during the glory days of rock and roll.
It should come as no surprise that Tom Hanks' extended cut of That Thing You Do!
is even more entertaining than the original theatrical release. Hanks' debut as a writer-director was one of the most pleasant movie surprises of 1996, and Hanks' infectious enthusiasm for '60s pop music carried through to every aspect of this timelessly delightful production. Both versions are included on disc 1 of this two-disc set, with Hanks' extended cut running almost 40 minutes longer (147 minutes) and featuring a lot of good, fresh material that fleshes out characters, adding depth and dimension to the rise and fall of the movie's fictional 1964 pop band, the Wonders. Unlike a lot of extended cuts, this one doesn't feel extraneous or unnecessarily longer; the pacing remains brisk, both Liv Tyler and Charlize Theron get more screen time, and some new character details emerge during the Wonders' rise to short-lived success, including brief appearances by Howie Long as the sidekick (and/or boyfriend?) of the Wonders' manager (Tom Hanks), suggesting a possible parallel to the Beatles' gay manager, Brian Epstein. There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo for Hanks' son, Colin (as an usher escorting Liv Tyler to the Wonders' big TV debut), and additional scenes to deepen "Sticks" Patterson's love of jazz. Now That Thing You Do!
isn't just longer but better, with Hanks' extended cut earning its place as the definitive version of what was already a remarkably assured directorial debut.
Disc 2 includes several bonus features not found on the previously released DVD. Some of them are EPK (electronic press kit) featurettes produced to promote That Thing You Do! back in 1996, while the That Thing You Do! reunion is an all-new (2007) encounter with cast members Tom Everett Scott, Jonathan Schaech, Charlize Theron, and Ethan Embry, reminiscing about the fun they had during production while Steve Zahn ("Lenny") shares his favorite memories of the filming in a separate interview. The "Feel Alright" video is a flawlessly edited homage to pop-band promotional films of the '60s, brilliantly assembling clips from That Thing You Do (with The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and Help! as obvious inspirations). "The Wonders--Big in Japan!" is a lively home-video diary of a That Thing You Do! promotional tour in Tokyo (where the actors actually played as "the Wonders"), and there's also a pair of informative (albeit semi-redundant) "making of" featurettes from 1996, including the same 13-minute bonus from the original DVD release, and an episode of HBO's "First Look" hosted by former MTV vee-jay Martha Quinn. "The Story of the Wonders" demonstrates how much thought and affection Hanks put into his fictional pop band's history and personnel, and disc 2 closes out with a standard sampling of TV spots and trailers. Two music videos from the original DVD (for "That Thing You Do!" and "Dance with Me Tonight") are not included here. --Jeff Shannon