That Thing You Do: The Wonders (1996)

Posted: February 8, 2012 in Comedy, Drama, Music

In small-town Pennsylvania, a small group of guys are in a band called the Oneders. While they have struggled to find their footing, their situation becomes dim when they lose their drummer to a broken arm. Fortunately for the group, they are able to invite Guy Patterson to fill in, who welcomes the idea to break away from his family’s appliance store. Guy’s love for jazz leads him to pushing the group into a new style of music, completely changing the feel of one of their only songs. The change is a true hit with the local crowd and gets them discovered by a smalltime manager. Under the promise of getting exposure, Phil Horace helps to get their song on the radio and a gig in Pittsburgh. While unexpected problems occur during the gig, a major player in the music industry observed the show, listened to the record and received the band’s contract. With a few suggestions and assistance with getting gigs, Mr. White helps to take the group from local hit to national sensation.

Starring: Tom Hanks (Mr. White), Tom Everett Scott (Guy Patterson), Liv Tyler (Faye Dolan), Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy Mattingly), Steve Zahn (Lenny Haise), Ethan Embry (TB Player), Charlize Theron (Tina), Giovanni Ribisi (Chad), Chris Ellis (Phil Horace), Alex Rocco (Sol Siler), Rita Wilson (Marguerite), Bill Cobbs (Dell Paxton), Peter Scolari (Troy Chesterfield)

The casting for this film included finding some young talents to match with the accomplishments of the experienced Tom Hanks. As Mr. White, Hanks is a confident, direct advisor for the young men. Though he contributes a strong performance, the film is more about the band members. Guy Patterson is played by Tom Everett Scott and serves as the cool drummer persona. His is the only character that seems to have an appreciation for the music. Jimmy Mattingly is played by Johnathon Schaech and is the band’s leader. While in Pennsylvania, he biggest concern is about controlling the group’s sound, but he also exhibits the effects of fame on one’s ego. In a similar vein, Steve Zahn plays the playful Lenny Haise. As the group’s lead guitarist, he takes in all of the excitement of being famous, particularly the money and women. Ethan Embry’s character is the most naive of the group. As the bass player, he fades into the background and feels out of place with the group, which helps to guide his desires regarding his future. Along for the ride is Liv Tyler as Faye Dolan. While she is able to embrace the experience, she also struggles with Schaech’s addiction to the fame. Charlize Theron as stars as Scott’s girlfriend who expresses little interest in his stardom.

Not only did Hanks serve as the film’s experienced acting talent but also the director and writer. His story looked to chronicle the experience of stardom on small-town guys. Guy may not have been an original member, but he was more prepared for the experience than the rest of the group. Jimmy and Faye’s relationship may never have been perfect, but it was certainly better before the fame. As the group enters into the collegiate battle of the bands, a quick decision by Guy changes the entire path for the band. By speeding up the tempo and changing the time signature, even the struggles to keep up with his drumming do not prevent the victory or the new direction for success. Fast forwarding beyond the group’s rise, the fame and fortune get the best of half the group while changing priorities create a rift for the others. Jimmy and Lenny both get enticed by the women and attention. With Jimmy in a relationship, he has to navigate whether to embrace Faye or let himself loose. Lenny just wants to enjoy himself but allows his pleasure to cause him to lose his way. For the bass player, he finds himself lost in the fray and wants to find a more noble existence than being a musician. Guy’s appreciation of music makes him the only member to stay focused on success. While this would suggestion success, he cannot continue to perform when his bandmates become distracted by their own issues.

In addition to the regular story, there was actually an epilogue that explained what happened to each of the band members. Guy’s love of music caused him to stay in California and eventually open a conservatory. He also was able to confess his love for Faye and they started a new life together. Jimmy’s desire to succeed and live large allowed him to find a new band and adapt the name he always wanted to use, The Heardsman. The bass player went on his tour of service and earned multiple accolades for his heroic deeds. Lenny’s love of the high life took him to Las Vegas. He wound up marrying a secretary and staying the Sin City. Eventually, he was hired to manage one of the casinos. This collection of happy endings served as a comparable conclusion in this greatly positive story of fame and success.

That Thing You Do both mimicked some of the elements of the rise of the Beatles and existed (in story) only one year after the success of the Fab Four. This is an entertaining film that encourages the concept of following ones dream.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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