That Thing You Do!
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Tom Hanks writes, directs, and co-stars in this refreshing, big-hearted comedy that captures the overnight triumph of an American rock band in the glory days of rock'n'roll. It's the story of The Wonders, a band catapulted to fame when their hit song, "That Thing You Do," skyrockets to the top of the charts. This movie is packe
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Charlize Theron who played Tina delivered a stellar performance as Guy's "Shades'" girlfriend in the movie. Shades was the nice guy on the drums. You might miss out on her development and evolution if you just see the original version which omitted her in many scenes. In the fuller version, you find out just how funny she can be and how and why she is a good match for Shades.
Johnathon Schaech as Jimmy Mattingly II was the group's leader and songwriter. He was also the keyboardist and guitarist. Lenny Haise, the flighty, quirky guitarist was played to perfection by Steve Zahn. In some ways one can liken him to Pete Best of former Beatles' fame. He was not reliable and often showed up late for rehearsals. Even with this liability, the group managed to win a college talent show/contest. T.B. is their bassman and Shades was a fortuitous addition to the group. He became a member when the original drummer broke his wrist horsing around on a parking meter.
Shades turns out to be the runaway and dark horse star of the group, called the One-Ders (Wonders). The only thing I didn't like was when Schaech went into an overly long and tedious dissertation about Chord-vettes as a possible name for the group. Chord as in music and vette as in the Chevrolet. Okay, we get it. Enough with the Chord-vette lecture. Nobody else went for the name and the group became known as the One-Ders instead. A good name at that. I also didn't like it when the group's name was mispronounced as O'Needers. I didn't like the sound of O'Needers at all.
Enter Tom Hanks who agrees to be the group's manager. He wisely encourages them to spell Wonders correctly so as to avoid future mispronunciations. Hanks as Mr. White delivers a credible performance as the manager and he signs the Wonders to Play-Tone records. The group starts to soar and follow the trail of the greats before them such as the Beatles, the DC-5, the Beach Boys, the Kinks and other classic rock delights. The scenes at the hotel in Los Angeles were funny to the point of being classic.
Each Wonder is given his place in the sun, even bassman T.B. whose name is never revealed. Each came adorably Beatle coiffed as in those days Beatle coiffure was the order of the day.
The Beatles' influence is prevalent in the movie. Their group name was mentioned 5 times in the movie. The scenes on the Ed Sullivan show are eerily reminiscent of the February 1964 Beatle appearances (filmed on February 9, 1964 and aired over the space of 2 weeks, February 9 and February 16, 1964.) One can't help but have a giggle at that scene.
When Lenny was off on a tear, a substitute guitarist fills in for the rehearsal. Again, the Beatles' influence is at work. In 1964 George Harrison was laid low with strep throat and a temperature of 104 degrees. His sister Louise nursed him back to health and on February 8 someone filled in for George while he was recuperating. Ed Sullivan even threatened to appear on television in a Beatle wig and looked quite a fool wearing one. Luckily the world was spared that image on television. Fortunately for all, George rallied in time for the big American performance. We all know the Beatles without George is like Chrysler without Dodge. You have to have George or it just isn't the Beatles. Simple as that.
Liv Tyler as Fay, Jimmy's girlfriend is strong and not a cliche groupie. She really carried her weight in this film. She was so good that the movie would never have been nearly as effective or as convincing had she not had a part in it.
The original 1996 version is good, but the newer version with never previously included scenes is even better. I vote for the extended cut version and no doubt you'll be singing the title song. This movie will "break your heart into a million pieces" just doing that thing it does.
Having been in a local band or two, I remember my first watching of this film struck me how they captured the different personality types you can run across in any creative endeavor. The performance at the talent show puts the spotlight on those types, and is very well reaffirmed late in the movie.
I've often thought that now, 20+ years later, a sequel could be done called "I Wonder" or something along those lines, perhaps about the daughter of a character that is a huge fan early on in the movie who could have married the bass player or something who goes in search of 'what happend to them?" and trying to get them to regroup for her parents anniversary or something.
VERY worth seeing!
So here it is: the DVD starts with flipping a 45 rpm record of The Wonders' hit single onto a record player. On the bottom right corner of the record player, you'll see a knob for controlling the rpms with settings for 33 rpm, 45 rpm and 78 rpm. This knob actually works! You can speed up the song to 78 rpm or slow it down to 33 rpm. I know, big deal, right? Well try it for yourself and see if you don't laugh. It's good clean fun and really brings back memories.
Anyhow, I just wanted to share since no one else seems to have mentioned it. Enjoy!
The theatrical release version of That Thing You Do is a fast-moving, frothy, film not too different in flavor from the song which serves as its center. But apparently writer/director Tom Hanks originally had something else in mind: A slightly darker, more thoughtful, film about the ups and downs of "making it" in the `60s pop music field. The alternate version shows us that initial vision and although it contains everything the theatrical release does, including all the warmth and humor, it also gives us a deeper glimpse into the darker regions that made up that world.
Which version is "better" remains to me an open question. There is something about the shorter, lighter, take on the story that is especially captivating. But for those who love this film -- and I suppose that includes all of us who were caught up in the `60s music scene -- each has something special to offer.
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I've watched it weekly since getting it, and enjoy it every time.