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That Thing You Do! (Blu-ray Review)

that thing you do whysoblu cover-001That Thing You Do! was the directorial debut of Tom Hanks from back in 1996 and it is still a joy to watch.  The film is a light-hearted look at a fictional band that became a one-hit wonder sensation during a summer in the 60s.  The film features a simple, but very accessible story, fun performances from the cast, and a very catchy single.  While it was only a decent success at the box office, during its theatrical run, much like The Sandlot, That Thing You Do! has remained a very enjoyable film that has found an audience over time.  It must have to do with it being such a delightful film to watch that is full of energy.  Read on to find out if the Blu-ray is wonderful or not.

Film: 

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The film begins in the summer of 1964 in Erie, Pennsylvania.  A band is in need of a new drummer for a talent show, after the former drummer broke his arm.  They seek the help from Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott), who has lots of practice as a jazz drummer.  The band, which includes Jimmy (Jonathon Schaech), Lenny (Steve Zahn), and the bass player (he literally has no name, but is played by Ethan Embry); compete with a ballad called “That Thing You Do”.  Based on Guy’s decision to speed up the song, the band, who eventually names themselves The Oneeders The Wonders, wins the contest and become an instant success around town.  They record the single and soon have it start playing all over the state, eventually getting picked up by a major label to go on tour with for the summer.  With their new manager, played by Tom Hanks, The Wonders soon discover all that comes with instant success.

This film is a lot of fun due to its energy.  The beat of this film is fast and does not even let the drama become too heavy as it carries on.  The script, also written by Hanks, is a clever take on the 60s era and what it could be like to go from nothing, to a huge success, and then eventually just a one-hit wonder story that people talk about.  Sure there are a lot of different aspects revolving around The Wonders’ rise to fame that are seen, but the film never complicates itself and instead lets everything play out in a very smooth way.  Even in the extended cut, which runs a good 40 minutes longer than the original, still does not feel like a drag, as we follow this group and repeatedly listen to their big hit song.  With that said, this cut of the film does a good job of fleshing out more aspects of the characters and is the preferable version to watch.

Another key factor for this film is the music.  That Thing You Do! has a number of fun 60s hits, a fine, light-hearted score by Howard Shore, some jazz, and a number of original songs from The Wonders.  It is a great soundtrack and that is a very good thing.  Especially since we are going to be listening to the same hit single over and over, it is a good thing that the song is quite catchy, without being irritating.  Hanks must have had a fun time coming up with this aspect of the film, as it is certainly not based on a real group, nor is it a satire, necessarily, but you get the feeling that he was very interested in the music industry during this time and did his research to understand the zeitgeist of that time and apply it to a charming comedy.

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Tom Hanks also chose right by his actors.  Tom Everett Scott apparently reminded people of a younger Hanks and that seems quite evident in this film.  Everett Scott’s Guy is a nice person with a lot of good ideas and he remains likable throughout the film.  Schaech is the most controlling of the group, but you get a good idea where he is coming from in regards to wanting to make some meaningful music.  I think it is fair to say that Zahn’s Lenny is the favorite of many though, as he gets so many great one-liners throughout the film and optimizes the kind of fun many people have when they watch the movie.  Liv Tyler is also present in this film (along with a young Charlize Theron), as far as the female side of things is concerned and she adds a warm presence to a film that is already very likable.  And of course Tom Hanks is nicely suited in his part, making the wise decision to remain in the background and not overtake a film that he does not need to be the star of.

There is not a whole lot more to add, as I find That Thing You Do! to be an incredibly enjoyable and pleasant film to watch.  For those who have not seen it, the film is certainly worth your time if you want to catch a charming comedy or have a desire to listen to some 60s flavored music for a couple hours, in the midst of a nicely paced story.  The music is catchy, the cast is a lot of fun, and the story is presented in an entertaining matter that makes for a fine viewing experience, suitable for almost anyone.

Video: 

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So I was talking about all the fun I had with this film and watching it again, with one key exception.  I am not sure what happened, but it appears that someone dropped the ball on truly making this a crisp visual experience on Blu-ray.  Despite being presented with a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer, That Thing You Do! is a good example of that thing you don’t do with a Blu-ray and that is simply port it over from the DVD.  I do not generally consider myself the best judge when it comes to Blu-ray quality video and audio presentations, but I know when something looks bad and the image on this disc just simply doesn’t match other films; not just the big blockbusters, but other old films that I have seen transferred onto Blu-ray.  It is really quite a shame, as the film has a nice color palette, which is the one saving grace of this Blu-ray, but we are not given a chance to truly enjoy the textures and tones scene in the film, given the time period.  This at least explains why I couldn’t find great screencaps of the film.

Audio: 

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Thankfully I was at least able to enjoy the audio presentation on this Blu-ray.  Given that the film is so music-heavy, getting to hear the title track, let alone the very upbeat soundtrack in general was a much more delightful experience.  The music all sounds great and the other aspects of this lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track are well mixed.  The dialogue is clear, as we hear these guys banter and dive into their music scenes.  I guess I can also credit the disc on making the audience cheers sound quite authentic and loud, which works for The Wonders on Blu.  It is a fine audio track all around.

Extras: 

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This is a good news, bad news scenario.  The good news is that there are a number of significant special features on this Blu-ray.  The bad news is that they are all ported over from the previous DVD release and still in standard definition.

Features Include:

The Story of The Wonders – A 30-minute look at the origins of this film, featuring interviews with Hanks and many of the people involved.

Making That Thing You Do! – A pretty standard behind-the-scenes feature.

That Thing You Do! Reunion – While not everyone joins here, this was a nice little feature recorded back in 2007.

HBO First Look: The Making of That Thing You Do! – Fairly similar to a previous feature.

The Wonders! Big in Japan! – A look at a promotional tour that took place in Japan.

“Feel Alright” Music Video

Trailers and TV Spots

I should also note that this Blu-ray does contain both cuts of the film – the 108-minute version and the extended 149-minute version.

Summary: 

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So the best reason to purchase this Blu-ray would be because you are either a diehard fan of That Thing You Do! or you have just always wanted to own it.  Honestly, if you already own the previous DVD release of this film, this Blu-ray is not much of an upgrade.  The video quality is not great and while the audio is a solid presentation on the disc, the extra features are all from the previous release.  That said, the film is just as fun as it ever was, so I was certainly happy to revisit it and will continue to do so.  I can only hope that Hanks makes more of these types of films and less Larry Crownes.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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