Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Tom Hanks made his directorial debut in this bright comedy set in the mid-1960's about a rock group and their brief fling with fame. Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) works as a salesman at his father's appliance store and plays the drums in his spare time, fancying himself a jazz musician. One day, a buddy of Guy's tells him a local rock band, The One-Ders (it's pronounced "wonders"), are in need of a drummer -- they have Battle of the Bands coming up and their usual timekeeper has broken his arm. Guy agrees to sit in, but when it's time to play their best original, a love ballad called "That Thing You Do," Guy lays in a sharp, driving beat that turns the tune into an uptempo pop-rocker. Lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) isn't happy at first, but guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn) and the nameless Bass Player (Ethan Embry) think the song sounds better that way -- and they notice the girls like it just fine. Soon people are actually requesting the song at their shows, and the One-Ders scrape together some money to press a single of "That Thing You Do" to sell between sets. A DJ puts the song on the radio, and opportunity knocks in the form of Mr. White (Tom Hanks), who works for the very major Play-Tone Records label. Play-Tone buys the rights to "That Thing You Do" and puts the band on the road as their song makes it way to the top of the national charts. But what can The Wonders (as Play-Tone have re-named them) do for an encore? And what should Guy do about his infatuation with Jimmy's girlfriend, Faye (Liv Tyler)? Real-life 60's obsessed rocker Chris Isaak has a small part as a recording engineer, and fans of real 60's garage bands will appreciate the wealth of small, accurately observed details (for example, halfway through the film, when a few "That Thing You Do" royalty checks have presumably kicked in, the band's inexpensive Danelectro guitars disappear and the Wonders are suddenly playing on brand new Fender gear -- the height of rock style in 1965).
Mark Deming, All Movie Guide