It can't be denied that the 60's was a wonderful period for music. The Beatles, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Dylan, the Beach Boys...the list goes on and on. But you also LSD, acid, dope and mental breakdowns. Unsurprisingly, Tom Hanks directorial debut concentrates on the former list and ignores the latter to create a sweet, if sanitised, nostalgia piece to the music of the 60's.Guy (Tom Everett Scott) is an aspiring drummer with a problem - he hasn't got a band. This changes however when a local band lose their drummer to a broken arm and Guy is quickly drafted in as a replacement to play alongside moody singer/songwriter Jimmy (Jonathan Schaech), party loving bass player Lenny (Steve Zahn) and the unnamed bass player (Ethan Embry). Also along for the ride is Jimmy's loving girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler).
They name themselves the Wonders (but spelt oneders which gets them pronounced the o-nay-ders) and have one decent song - a mid-paced ballad, 'That thing you do!'. Guy however, brings a bit of pace to the song and it quickly takes off leading to them being branded the next big thing and being taken under the management of Mr White (Tom Hanks).
Is the rest of the film predictable? Absolutely. Cue the usual hi-jinks of a band on the road and the usual fall-outs between the happy-go-lucky rhythm section of the band and the ego-centric lead singer who only cares about the music.
Hanks is so determined to coat this tale in a suger-coated nostalgia, that the 60's come across as the cleanest period in human history. No-one drinks too much, smokes, takes drugs or has sex. Despite falling out with each other the band refrain from calling each other names. 'The Commitments' it isn't. Even a subplot about Guy's girlfriend having an affair (an early appearance by Charlize Theron) is dismissed in one line of dialogue, because it's too uncomfortable for the tone probably.
But despite this overly cute approach, 'That Thing You Do!' is near impossible to dislike. It has a sunny and charming disposition and Hanks keeps the pace zipping along. The cast are mainly forgettable apart from Hanks' crabby manager and the always entertaining Zahn. No matter how cliched the part, you can guarantee that Zahn will bring something to it that makes it effortlessly watchable.
The music too is fine and suits the period well, with the title song guaranteed to be rattling around your head for days afterwards.Pleasant. Warm. Cute. These are all words to describe 'That Thing You Do!'. Legendary. Genre-shifting. Genius. These are words to describe the best of 60's music, but are words that will never grace a 'That Thing You Do!' review. It's a film that no-one could hate, but also no-one could truly love.