A rare case of a good film with an exclamation mark in the title, That Thing You Do! is the directorial debut of Turner & Hooch himself, Tom Hanks.
Essentially Great Balls of Fire! without the incest, this 1996 comedy about a Beatlesy band in ’60s Pennsylvania is as formulaic as music movies come, but Hanks plays it like a pro. He colours the film with nostalgic detail, delivering an upbeat ode to rock and roll that’s closer to Happy Days than Whiplash, although it does highlight the longevity of jazz compared to the fleeting nature of pop.
The group itself is a teenage one-hit wonder called The Wonders, who play the title song around 100 times throughout the movie. Luckily it’s quite a good track, somewhere between Accidentally in Love by Counting Crows and The Air-Conditioned Nightmare by Mr. Bungle, and well mimed by Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry. There’s nice support from Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi and Liv Tyler, lending her genetic rock credentials to proceedings.
What the picture lacks in high stakes or big laughs Hanks makes up for with heart, snappy writing and lively direction, making That Thing You Do! a blast, from the past.