A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
“That Thing You Do!” is the first film written and directed by Tom Hanks, and not surprisingly it is as sunny and guileless as many of the characters he's played: The movie may be inconsequential, but in some ways that's a strength. Without hauling in a lot of deep meanings, it remembers with great warmth a time and a place.
The time: the summer of 1964. The place: Erie, Pa., where life for young people centers on music, on records, on the radio, and especially on the incredible phenomenon of the Beatles. It's the kind of world where the owner of an appliance store can say, “I don't think I want to live in a country where you have to work on Sunday” without suspecting he will ever have to.
The owner's son, named Guy (Tom Everett Scott), lurks in the store after hours to play records loudly on the turntables and accompany them on the drums. His friends have started a band, and when the drummer breaks an arm, Guy joins the band just before it gets its big break--a gig at a college talent show that leads to a gig at a pizza parlor. By picking up the tempo, Guy changes the band's sound until they resemble the Beatles a little, as so many bands did then.
They have one song, written by their lead vocalist, Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech). It's called “That Thing You Do!,” and it's a good thing it's a good song (written by Adam Schlesinger) because boy, are we familiar with it by the time the movie is over. As they get better as a band, the song gets better, too, and soon they're being signed to tour Pennsylvania by a so-called manager who pulls up outside the store in his camper.