Favorite Things: That Thing You Do! Film

, by Zoë Gulliksen

This 1996 musical comedy not only starred Tom Hanks but was also written by him and marked his directorial debut. The title song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and was even covered by *N SYNC back in the day! (Don't believe me, you can watch it HERE)

If you've never seen it, it is about a garage band called The Wonders (or The Oneders) in the summer of 1964 who make it to the big leagues nearly over night. The band members, Jimmy, Guy, Lenny, and the unnamed The Bass Player are accompanied by Liv Tyler's Faye and manager Mr. White played by Tom Hanks himself. The music is immediately addictive and the characters are impossible to adore.

clearly remember the very first time I saw this film: I was around 7 and home, sick. My dad told me to watch a scene from a movie he rented, to the part when The Wonders perform their song, That Thing You Do!, during the state fair tour. I was instantly engrossed and I went on to view it no less than 40 times in the following years and blasting the soundtrack much to the eventual annoyance of my family.

This is one of those movies that connects with you, and stays with many years after. I had a massive crush on Tom Everette Scott's Guy Patterson, I wanted to be best friends with Steve Zahn's Lenny, I HATED Johnathon Schaech's Jimmy and I always wanted to know Ethan Embry's T.B. Player's real name. This is also the film that sparked my long time girl crush on Liv Tyler, later validated as Arwen Lord of the Rings. Little known fact: this movie was one of the very first films Charlize Theron acted in. Tom Hanks has been credited by some as the man who first realized her potential.

When I was 11 years old I danced to the title song in a talent show at a theatre camp I attended for a few summers. (Same summer camp where I played Uncle Vernon in a musical rendition of Harry Potter. No joke. I have pictures.) For the talent show, I dressed up like one of the band's back up dancers and I tried to mimic their choreography from their tour. 

So what makes this movie memorable? I credit it completely to Tom Hanks. This was his baby, and he put everything he had into making this film. I'd like to believe that Hanks had enormous heart during the process, making his cast and crew in turn have a good time. The story is complex in having all its characters fleshed out, and alluding to actual historical events such as The Beatles' journey while making a parody of the time period.

That Thing You Do! was one of the movies that really resonated with me and introduced me to the art of telling a good story. Faye has a monologue at the end that I performed for a theatre class in high school, and that scene taught me a lot about love. I also learned how to kiss from watching this movie. There is an amazing kiss between two of the characters in the end (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it) and I used to rewind my VHS repeatedly, analyzing the way they moved. So this is how you tilt your head, move your fingers like this, breathe, be gentle. There are many Easter eggs, of sorts, hidden throughout the film, which you can read in full on the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That_Thing_You_Do!

Many people on Twitter also share an enormous love for this movie, and I hope all of you have gotten your hands on the 2007 released DVD Director's Cut Edition. The first time I saw this version, I was squealing with delight nearly every other scene. There is a whopping 45 minutes of extra scenes, including many more of Theron's Tina and her romance with the Ken doll look a like dentist boyfriend. Also, MANY scenes that have so much backstory and make the film flow tremendously better. If you haven't seen this version, RUN to amazon and get your hands on a copy. 

If you are willing to watch the original verison, which is JUST AS AMAZING, its currently on Instant Watch on Netflix! Go watch it tonight! What are waiting for it?! 

You won't regret it at all, I promise. =)


  1. I love this movie. It's an unappreciated gem of a film, and I feel like it's primed for rediscovery. Come on, who could hate Cap'n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters? Of course, I feel a certain kinship with it; this film hit theaters just as I was really starting to play guitar, so of course I picked up and learned the title song immediately. It's incredible how nuts a crowd goes when you start playing it.

    And I was thinking about cosplaying as Guy Patterson for this year's New York Comic Con. I may well have to go through with that. Not exactly a comic book character, but way cooler than about ninety percent of them...

  2. Omigod, I love love love this film. Pure magic. It captures that feeling of fame, the meteoric rise, the ride ... the whole thing. It's a brilliant film, and you completely get caught up in it. One of Tom Hanks' best, and the inspiration for his Play-Tone label/company.

    An interesting note about this film, is that the title track, a fictional top-ten single by a fictional band, actually charted in real life ... life imitating art. Again, brilliant.