directed and written by Tom Hanks
So in my official capacity as a great media know-all, purveyor of cinematic wisdom and television trivia, I feel it is my duty to, on occasion, present what I feel is an, underrated, little-known gem to the public. One of these gems is That Thing You Do. Written and directed by Tom Hanks, yes that’s right people, Tom Hanks is much more than a pretty face in front of the screen (if you didn’t know that already), it is about the rise and fall of a fake one-hit wonder band called, “The Wonders” (originally “The O’Needers” and good call changing that name). The band from Erie, PA consists of Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), the lead guitarist and vocals who thinks he is much more talented than he is, Lenny (Steve Zahn), the backup guitarist and vocalist and overall goofball of the group and Ethan Embry’s character the bassist, who oddly enough never gets a name. The band finally catches a break after they get a new drummer, Guy (Tom Everett Scott) with their hit “That Thing You Do”. And who discovers them? Why Tom Hanks of course! After Tom Hanks’ character, Mr. White, signs them to “Playtone Records” they record the single and go on a nationwide tour with other Playtone artists and Jimmy’s girlfriend Faye, whom Guy clearly has a crush on and is played superbly by Liv Tyler (who, personally, I love every time she is onscreen what ever her role).
The story of the band plays out as I imagine many band’s tales do. They tour, they fight with each other, they fight with their label… Jimmy in the end decides to leave the band because of “creative differences” between himself and the label, who wont’t let him make his music. But not before breaking up with is longtime and faithful girlfriend Faye. Embry’s character joins the army…. basically they all part ways. Guy, who has been nickname Shades by Mr. White and is a real jazz man at heart, not only gets to meet and jam with one of his idols Del Paxton (great cameo by Bill Cobbs) but just might finally get the girl, who he has clearly been crushing on the whole movie.
Guy is the real heart of the group and the main source of the female fan’s attention and the viewer’s as well. However the music, the great writing and collaboration of the actors combine to tell a heartfelt tale. Striving to live the American dream, to make it big, but also the complications that arise in personal relationships between friends and bandmates. With cool “was that who I think it was” cameos and fun music,not to mention the nice eye candy, it’s a movie that I love going back to again and again.