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20th Century Fox presents
"This 'Oneders' thing, with the o-n-e. It doesn't work. It's confusing. From now on, you're just The Wonders.
DVD ReviewIn between Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks stepped into the realm of feature film writer/director with That Thing You Do!, a hip and groovy colorful period piece set in the mid-1960s about the meteoric rise of a rock and roll band.
Awash in the nostalgic innocence of the time and a genuine sense of the singular power of music, Hanks hit the nail hard with this one, keeping the mood mostly light and the story realistically frothy, as the rising band The Wonders (formerly The Oneders) finds the hassles of romance and fame, based in large part on the ridiculously hooky, infectious titular single. Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, and Ethan Embry are the jangly popsters, and succeed in playing that movie rarity—a believable fictional rock band. It's something that is not nearly as easy as it sounds, and making it look real and natural, as is done here, adds to the perception of realism that makes this film so enjoyable.
This new two-disc set carries both the original theatrical version (01h:47m:38s) and a new extended cut (02h:26m:51s), both appearing on the same side of the first disc. The new, longer version is referred to as the "Tom Hanks' Extended Cut", though nowhere here does it indicate Hanks' involvement or blessing. Neither does it spell out specifically what's new anywhere. There is, however, roughly 53 minutes of additional footage, most of it front loaded in the story. There's quite a bit more background on Guy (Tom Everett Scott), in particular his relationship with the radiant glow of Tina (Charlize Theron), a longer peek at the band before their first big gig, and even something that significantly alters the whole ebb and flow of a major character.
It's sort of a question mark whether a film that is so purposeful in its period innocence and charm necessarily needed to be stretched out to nearly two-and-a-half hours, but as a fan of the theatrical cut I found this "new" version a consistently pleasant diversion, though hardly what I would call a vast improvement. It's nice to have both cuts available here for nerdy comparison purposes, but this longer take is not necessarily the be-all-end-all. The cast does remain wholly likeable throughout, but in the expanded version it seems to take longer to get the ball finally rolling.
Hanks, in addition to writing and directing, has a major supporting role as the wise musical Svengali Mr. White, and despite his giant image on the cover, the film is really the story of a rock band. The Wonders are the core of all that goes on here—their relationships with each other and the women in their lives (led by Liv Tyler and Theron)—and the members of the band are able to make their distinct personalities appear natural, and not so predictably stock. There's a great moment where the differences in all four come together, and it occurs when the band awkwardly launches into a revved up version of That Thing You Do! at a talent show—led by the spontaneous decision to speed things by drummer Guy—and they witness the crowd's approval to the change. It's a pivotal sequence that hints at what the future will hold—both good and bad—and the mix of apprehension, anger and excitement at the shift in the song's tempo reflects differently off of each character.
There's really no disrespect in calling That Thing You Do! "light", because it bears that label pretty well. No one will ever mistake this for a documentary, yet the whole thing is as deep as you want to make it, and if you care to note the thematic parallels to the real life rock world (think Beatles, if the Beatles came from Erie, PA); I love the Giovanni Ribisi character, the drummer who missed fame due to a broken arm. Likewise the eventual band infighting and "artistic differences", or even the subtle touch of having The Wonders bass player (Ethan Embry) never be named, left to wallow in the popular shadow of brooding frontman Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), as bass players often are.
Those little nods to realism are nice, and it does help propel Hanks' story along the familiar, dangerous rise to the top. Plus, there's that song. That wonderful (no pun intended) hook-filled song, written by Fountains Of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger. Used seemingly a zillion times during the course of the film, and each time it comfortably bursts forth like it's brand new; it corkscrews itself into your head, where it will reside for weeks. Just like a "real" pop song should.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Both the original theatrical cut (1h:47m:38s) and the new extended version (2h:26m:51s) are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widesreen, both on the same side of Disc 1. The theatrical cut appears to be the same transfer found on the 2001 release, and both versions of the film here sport the same level of groovy, bright colors and sharp edges. There doesn't seem to be any dramatic compression issues (a result of cramming both versions on one disc) though you folks with 103-inch screens may sing a different tune.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The main audio track is the same Dolby Digital 5.0 mix found of the original 2001 release. The lack of an LFE channel isn't quite the dramatic loss it might appear, especially for a film where music is such an integral factor. The dialogue sequences sound clear, with a moderate sense of directional pans across the front channels, and most importantly the musical performances have a strong, well-defined separation, as well as a more pronounced use of the rear channels for crowd sounds.
French and Spanish 2.0 dubs are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: The rather lightweight extras all show up on disc two, and the absence of a music video for the infectious single That Thing You Do! (found on the 2001 release) seems a trifle strange. There is, however, a Feel Alright music video (02m:32s), set to clips from the film. There's five featurettes—including a 1997 HBO's First Look: The Making Of That Thing You Do! (13m:01s) hosted by Martha Quinn already found on the previous version.
The moderately fluffy new stuff is found in the other four segments—The Wonders! Big In Japan (06m:58s), The Story Of The Wonders (30m:48s), Making That Thing You Do! (13m:43s) and That Thing You Do! Reunion (10m:16s). There's a little bit of content bleed between The Story Of.. and Making... segments, though the Big In Japan bit has the cast recalling their Japanese press tour where they were treated like a real rock and roll band. Steve Zahn in particular has some great awestruck recollections about flying to Japan in a private jet with Tom Hanks. The Reunion piece may get a little too serious ("I don't any movie will ever compare..."), but anytime there's a chance to bask in the radiant glow of Charlize Theron, I'm there.
Disc two concludes with a theatrical trailer and three television spots. The feature film is cut into 36 chapters, and carries optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThe extended cut does run a little long—pushing the 2-1/2 hour mark—though this two-disc set includes the original theatrical version as well. The audio and video transfers appear to be the same as the 2001 DVD release, and the extras here aren't really all that fantastic.
So why the high marks? Because it remains a fun movie, filled with a great level of contagious energy and enthusiasm. If you already own the previous release, an upgrade here isn't necessarily a priority; if you don't, then this is an easy recommendation, no matter which cut of the film you choose.
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