"That Thing You Do!" is Tom Hanks's invitation to remember the early 60s with a smile. If the adult population had been shaken to their roots by John F. Kennedy's assassination, kids were still kids, looking for new ways to grow up. Across suburbia, thousands of high-school drummers and electric guitarists blasted their passion through speakers designed to drive their parents mad.
The Wonders, a fictional rock band, flashes brilliantly across the skies of adolescence for a few minutes with one hit record. The song propels them right into the hands of a manager named Mr. White (Tom Hanks), who shepherds them through a concert tour that ends in Los Angeles, where they implode on fame.
The linchpin of this young band is an endearing Tom Hanks clone named Guy (Tom Everett Scott), who practices his drumming alone in the family appliance store after hours. In a typical gust of whimsy, Guy is invited to step into a neighborhood band after the regular drummer breaks his arm jumping over a parking meter.
Guy joins the irrepressible Lenny (Steve Zahn), super-serious lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), and Jimmy's girlfriend, Faye (Liv Tyler), for the road trip to the riches and perks that wait in L.A. Knowing that few young people can avoid self-destructing in the face of abundance, wise old Mr. White guides them with a paternal hand.
Enjoy one irresistible scene in which the gang rushes to the appliance store and turns every radio to full volume as their big tune plays for the first time. They cavort and holler and wallow in the sheer excitement of new success. It plays beautifully in the cynical atmosphere of 1996.
Steve Zahn is disarmingly charming as the transported drummer; Liv Tyler gives Faye a marvelous mix of wide-eyed enthusiasm and early wisdom. Tyler is far more appealing and adept in this role than she was as the mysterious focus of "Stealing Beauty," a part for which she just didn't have the presence.
What makes this movie such good fun is Hanks's obvious glee in telling his story and getting the period right. This man has a sure memory for the details of the early 60s, when he was probably sitting at a 5th-grade desk. Do you remember when the local appliance store was a mom-and-pop deal, when a clock radio was the latest high-tech adventure, when women of all ages turned their hair into frosted helmets? Tom Hanks does.
He wrote, directed, and acted in this film, and then went on to write several songs for the score. He has funneled his exuberance to the audience through a young cast that is full of joy and unafraid to show it. He has lured them backward to an antic time that is alien to the jaded sensibilities of their own era. As this lighthearted movie skips into the multiplexes, the violent blockbusters seem to sink to the bottom like stones.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h50m
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page