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THAT THING YOU DO!
Tom Hanks' Extended Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Jonathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks
Director: Tom Hanks
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 146 Minutes
Release Date: May 8, 2007

“This One-ders with the O-N-E, it doesn’t work. It’s confusing. From now on you boys will just be simply The Wonders.”

“As in I wonder what happened to The O-neders?”

Film ***

Tom Hanks picked perhaps the perfect project to mark his debut as a writer/director. That Thing You Do is a breezy, frequently funny, and terrific musical period piece that really captures the era of its setting. Though Hanks is mostly behind the camera, the film delivers the same sunny, feel-good charm that you normally get from a Tom Hanks acting performance, as long as we’re not talking about The Da Vinci Code.

The setting in this case is the music-infused 60s when America was being rocked to its knees by the sounds of Elvis and The Beatles. The story takes place in Eerie, PA, where a group of friends are struggling to get their music act off the ground. They record when they can in one of the members’ basement.

The main character focus is Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott), who is friends with the guys in the aspiring music act. He works under his father at an appliance store. Though the job gives him the blues, he eagerly awaits the time after the store closes, when he stays in the store to play records loud and provide his own percussion via a drum set.

But Guy’s life is about to get a big break, though not a hugely successful one at first. When the band’s drummer accidentally breaks his arm, Guy is offered the position of drummer for the band. The fellow band mates are lead singer Jimmy (Jonathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), and a bassist known simply as The Bass Player (Ethan Embry). The name of the band is none other than The Oneders.

Guy brings a different taste of percussion to the band, and it very much leads to a heavy reaction following a performance at a local event. Then their song, titled That Thing You Do, hits the local radio station and the band feels like they’re finally starting to take off. Their local success catches the attention of Play-Tone Records agent Mr. White (Hanks), who plans to make the newly named Wonders into a music sensation and have their song go all the way to number one.

But as in the case of so many real life bands, the achievement of success is followed by tensions caused mostly by ego. Jimmy, the singer/songwriter, wants to have full control of the music. This causes a distance between him and girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), who has supported the band every step of the way. And since Guy has been ignored by his girlfriend, Tina (Charlize Theron), and he is there for Faye when she needs him, it’s clear that Faye is not with the right boyfriend.

One of the best scenes in the film involves Guy meeting one of his music idols, jazz legend Dell Paxton. This scene comes in at the absolute best point in the film, when the band has started to break up. The two conversate about the issue of how bands come and go. They also join each other for a music session.

If you are still a lover of 60s music, then I’m sure you’ll agree that few movies capture it as winningly as That Thing You Do. Tom Hanks hasn’t stepped behind the camera since this film, but I hope he will certainly consider doing it again soon. Judging by the quality of That Thing You Do, another directorial effort from one of our favorite actors is very much anticipated.

Video ***1/2

I never caught the original DVD release, but I can say that the video presentation on this new Extended Cut release is quite superb. The anamorphic picture is lively with a bright, sharp image and strong use of colors. Despite a brief moment of image softness, this is a purely top-notch performance.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.0 mix captures the music wonderfully, thus making this quite an outstanding sounding disc. The music numbers come off in astoundingly high quality, especially in concert sequences. Dialogue delivery is totally clear and crisp as well. And surround sound plays tremendously from beginning to end.

Features ***

This two disc Extended Cut release includes both the theatrical cut and the new Tom Hanks Extended Cut, which contains 20 minutes of new footage. Disc One includes both cuts of the film.

Disc Two includes four all new featurettes; “Making That Thing You Do!”, “The Story Of The Wonders”, “That Thing You Do! Reunion”, “The Wonders - Big In Japan”. Also featured an HBO behind the scenes featurette, a Music Video for the song “Feel Alright”, and Trailers/TV Spots.

Summary:

That Thing You Do remains a highly enjoyable slice of life romp. The new Extended Cut release is a great opportunity to rediscover this fun film, in two versions no less!

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