My Favorite Movies #4 – That Thing You Do!

That Thing You Do!


Directed by Tom Hanks

Quick synopsis… In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

  • I actually took full advantage of a recent opportunity to watch this movie with the original cast during the pandemic.
  • The four members of the Wonders (Johnathan Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, and Tom Everett Scott) got together on a livestream on YouTube and invited fans to watch along with them.
  • They had other surprise guests show up throughout to weigh in on why this movie has endured over the last couple of decades.
  • It was a lot of fun to hear them all talk about memories on set.
  • It’s 1964 in Erie, PA and we are introduced to Guy Patterson (Scott).
  • Guy works for his dad, who owns Patterson Appliances.
  • Once the store closes up for the night, it’s up to Guy to balance the register with all the receipts.
  • But he also likes to play some jazz on the store’s Hi-Fi stereo while he plays along on his drumset.
  • He also tends to forget to turn the lights off, including the neon sign outside.
  • “Are we open for business all night?!”
  • One morning, Guy strolls into the local diner for some breakfast and it’s clear that many of the young ladies of Erie, Pennsylvania think he’s dreamy.
  • He also catches the attention of a local garage band that is prepping for their big debut at a college talent show that night.
  • They’re trying to come up with a band name, but nothing that their lead singer, Jimmy (Schaech), comes up with sounds good to anyone but him.
  • When Chad (Giovanni Ribisi), the drummer, idiotically breaks his arm while leap frogging over parking meters, Jimmy and guitarist Lenny (Zahn) seek out Guy, knowing he plays percussion.
  • They convince to temporarily join the band just for the night, saying if they win, they’d all split the prize money.
  • So Guy joins them in Jimmy’s garage to practice a slow ballad titled “That Thing You Do”.
  • As Guy wraps things up, they tell him it sounds great, and he replies, “Wonderful!”
  • This gives Jimmy’s girlfriend, Faye (Liv Tyler), an idea for the band’s name…
  • The Oneders!
  • “Yeah, looks like Oh-nee-ders…”
  • Which is, of course, how they’re introduced at the talent show.
  • Guy takes it upon himself to greatly increase the tempo of the song.
  • “That Thing You Do” is no long a boring ballad, but an exciting dance number…
  • It’s a hit record.
  • The Oneders are invited to play at a local Italian restaurant and, due to their wild local popularity, they decide to record their hit song, selling singles for a buck a piece.
  • This gets the attention Phil Horace, a local talent manager, who promises to get their song on the radio and book the band for area rock and roll shows.
  • Their next big gig is in Pittsburgh, where it doesn’t go so great.
  • Despite that, the Oneders have grabbed the attention of Mr. White (Tom Hanks), a representative of Playtone Records.
  • The band signs on with the big national company and officially changes their name to The Wonders… because Oneders is just too confusing.
  • It’s at this point we learn that the bass player (Embry) has enlisted in the Marine Corps and will have to leave the band at the end of the summer.
  • Mr. White also gives Guy a pair of sunglasses, which become the drummer’s trademark.
  • The Wonders (and Faye) leave Pittsburgh to join the Playtone Galaxy of Stars, which is touring state fairs throughout the summer.
  • Soon, The Wonders find “That Thing You Do” climbing the charts and their fame skyrockets.
  • They don’t even get a chance to finish the fair tour.
  • When the song hits the top 10, the band is sent to Los Angeles where they get a bit part in a movie, meet the CEO of Playtone Records (which doesn’t go great), and perform live on national television.
  • But this is about the point where the band starts to fall apart.
  • Jimmy’s attitude grows worse and worse over time because, basically, he’s a prima dona.
  • The bass player runs into some enlisted Marines at the hotel and, in an effort to impress them, forgets he’s supposed to play bass on live TV.
  • Because the Marines took him to Disneyland.
  • He’s replaced for the live performance with experience bassist “Wolfman” Scott Pell.
  • Meanwhile, Guy gets to meet his musical idol Del Paxton, who basically predicts that The Wonders will fall apart… it’s just a matter of time.
  • Turns out it would just be a couple days later.
  • Following their TV appearance, Jimmy breaks up with Faye.
  • Lenny runs off to Vegas with a Playtone receptionist, gets married, and just doesn’t return for the band’s scheduled studio time the next day.
  • In the recording studio, Mr. White isn’t thrilled about Lenny or the bass player being absent.
  • Jimmy is furious that Mr. White would insist on the band recording songs that he, himself, did not write.
  • “I don’t want any of this lover’s lament crap. I want something peppy, something happy, something up-tempo. I want something snappy.”
  • So Jimmy snaps his fingers and quits.
  • “The Wonders are in breach of contract,” says Mr. White, giving Guy a very severe look.
  • Guy’s worried, but Mr. White tells him that no one is going to prison.
  • This is a common tale in the record industry… one hit wonders.
  • Guy hangs out in the studio for a while, being his first time in a real studio.
  • Del Paxton just happens to be there and offer to record an impromptu jazz session with Guy.
  • Guy gets back to the hotel in a hurry so he can check out, since he’s not staying there on the Playtone dime anymore.
  • He runs into Faye as she’s getting ready to leave and she tells him that none of this would have happened if he hadn’t joined the band.
  • “And I mean that in a good way.”
  • Of course, the two of them end up together.
  • If you’re not watching along as I give this synopsis, you’re probably thinking… how do they suddenly end up together?!
  • Throughout the movie, their relationship has little seeds planted here and there…
  • Guy obviously shows Faye more attention and affection than Jimmy ever does, but he’s not inappropriate about it and doesn’t even act like he’s got a thing for her.
  • He’s just a good friend until the end when she just happens to be available.
  • It’s a great movie that’s worth watching every time you can find it on anywhere.
  • Check it out if you’ve never seen it.

Next week we come to number three in the countdown. It’s the movie that made you believe a man could fly. Any guesses?


5 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #4 – That Thing You Do!

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Movies #4 – That Thing You Do! –

  2. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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