I’m actually quite embarrassed to say how much I like this little movie. I’m kind of a sucker for other movies with this very basic storyline, like The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart and The Benny Goodman Story with Steve Allen. In each case, the band (here it’s The Wonders, originally the Oneders) struggles to find “the sound” that makes it distinctive. In That Thing You Do it happens quickly, when drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) takes the title song from a ballad to an upbeat dance tune at the Mercyhurst College Talent Show. (They’re “Wicked.”)
The movie follows the band from sock hop to local rock and roll show, to the Play-Tone state fair tour, and ultimately, to the Ed Sullivan Show. Well, they called it the Hollywood Television Showcase. However, “artistic tension” between lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) and the rest of the band causes the breakup of the band. As their manager Mr. White (Tom Hanks) said, “One hit wonders. A very common tale.”
TTYD is Hanks’ sole film director credit, and shows just how versatile he is. (He also wrote the movie and some of the music.) It has a great supporting cast, including Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaac, Alex Rocco, Obba Babatundé, and Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks). The movie didn’t win any awards, and really isn’t a “serious” film. But it’s a “good watch.” By the way, has there ever been a better band name than Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters?