Movies I’m Weirdly Obsessed With: “That Thing You Do!”

I dream of the day where I can find a reason to say, “Oh, I’m not here with these fellas. I’ve got a pig in competition over at the livestock pavilion, and I am going to win that blue ribbon,” and not have to back out of a room slowly due to crushing awkwardness.

That Thing You Do! is such a fun, feel-good movie, with a perfectly infectious soundtrack that doesn’t seem that grating, even if the title track is played about 7 times in the movie. Okay, I’ll be honest, I lost track of how many times the song is actually played, because I was too busy playing a drinking game where the rule is, drink every time that song is played, and here we are. My actual movie viewing notes are: “Song count: 7? I don’t know.”

Similar to last week’s While You Were Sleeping recap, the DVD box recap of That Thing You Do! is great, but also kind of terrible. Note: I cut out the bits that talked about the DVD extras, which meant that the summary of the movie is condensed to one pretty vague sentence.

When a young appliance sales man fills in for an injured drummer in a local talent show, a Play-Tone Records executive (Hanks) signs the group and catapults them to fame!

That tells you nothing about how great the music is, or how ridiculous the costumes are, or how pretty much every character in this movie is excellent in their own way. Upon first glance, even the cover is screaming generic FUN, without really compelling you beyond that. It might just raise questions about the movie that will never get answered.

The best things about this cover is that Tom Everett Scott (left arrow) is standing sadly with his one snare drum and that Ethan Embry (right arrow) is in a military uniform.
Questions like why is Tom Everett Scott (left arrow) standing sadly with his one snare drum? Or why is Ethan Embry (right arrow) in a military uniform?

The movie follows this band, The Wonders (or “One-Ders” or “O-Need-Ers”) as they go from overzealous college-town band to a genuine rock-n-roll band, complete with tours, screaming fans and their first televised appearance. There are great moments throughout, like where they have terrible performances and when they finally make it big. You just root for these crazy kids from a small town to make it big, even if you know that this whole movie is a gentle spoof of the Beatles and of one-hit “Wonders.” (GET IT?) Look, we know that Jimmy is pretty, and Faye is stunning, and Guy is dreamy and cool. T.B. Player is kind of an empty vessel that becomes a great running joke in the movie. But let’s all agree that the best character in the movie is Lenny. Lenny gets the best lines and is has perfect comic timing. Consider this my formal request that Steve Zahn be in everything ever (and probably is).


Mr. White, the music producer who is instrumental to their success, gets a lot more screen time and back story (his boyfriend makes an appearance) in the extended cut of the movie. There is also more attention given to the sweet love story between T.B. Player and one of the singers for the Chantrellines. If you haven’t seen the extended version of the movie, you should try and hunt it down, because it’s more of an already great thing.

The Cast

At this point in the movie, you've still only heard the title song about 3 times.
At this point in the movie, you’ve still only heard the title song about 3 times.

The band is made up of perfectly ’90s actors, as in, many of them are not really as visible, but were everywhere in the 1990s. You have Johnathon Schaech as the perfectly handsome asshole lead singer Jimmy, Tom Everett Scott as cool drummer Guy, (my fav) Steve Zahn as guitar player Lenny, and Ethan Embry as T. B. Player. Let me repeat since I didn’t earlier, Ethan Embry’s character is never given a name and is listed in the credits as T. B. Player, as in The Bass Player. Liv Tyler plays the adorable Faye, Jimmy’s ever-patient girlfriend. My former roommate’s dad apparently likes to point out Faye whenever he watches Lord of the Rings, which just tells you that he is either terrible with character names or great at recalling the best Liv Tyler roles. (It’s the second one.) Faye dotes on Jimmy so fully, that many times throughout the movie you may find yourself thinking, Faye, get it together, you are better than this.

The best part about rewatching movies, is that you notice things you didn't notice before.  For example, why is Faye laying across the table to brush Jimmy's hair?
The best part about rewatching movies, is that you notice things you didn’t notice before. For example, why is Faye sprawled across the table to brush Jimmy’s hair?

Tom Hanks is wearing many hats with this movie, writing, directing and also starring in it. He also managed to wrangle up some of his friends and lots of other random actors to populate the screen.

This gallery doesn’t even include the fact that Tom Hanks’ kids Colin and Elizabeth are both in the movie, or that Peter Scolari also makes a cameo in there for those Bosom Buddies fans. There are also super recognizable character actors, aka “That Guy!” moments, with people like Bill Cobbs and Sean Whalen filling all the other roles.

Nostalgia Factor

The best part about period pieces is that you will inevitably get to enjoy them for multiple eras of nostalgia, both the period its depicting, and the time it was made. I already talked about how ’90s this movie is, based on the cast, but let’s take a good look at the ’60s as represented in this movie.

The costumes are so over-the-top ’60s. The shiny fabrics! Bright multicolor patterns! Sequins and fringe! SO MUCH PASTEL!

That crazy thick pink fringe!

I could honestly watch a whole movie of just the Chantrellines, but I realize now that might just be Dreamgirls or even Sparkle.

Is that a fringe crop top? Also, what is going on with that backing band’s clothing choices? They are matching, but also…not.
I love everything happening to those backup dancers. Mostly their candy colored shoes that match the puff balls lining their crop tops. Also, did anyone ever tell the band that they look good in gold?

The makeup in this movie is also great, with many dramatic heavily-lined Twiggy-esque bright big eyes. However, my only make-up related complaint is that Faye’s hair almost never changes except for that ridiculous updo at the end of the movie (you know the one). Maybe I just can’t get behind ’60s hair, which honestly I’m in no position to judge as my hair has been the same for quite a few years.

Aside from a great cast, a great set/look, the movie also has an OUTSTANDING dance-y soundtrack. Here are some of my favorites that are not any of the versions of the title song that you can see/hear in the movie. I apologize that the internet hasn’t put better versions of these songs up yet.

As a parting thought, in case this wasn’t enough ’90s for you, here’s N’Sync doing a cover of “That Thing You Do.” Thanks, Internet.

By Karishma

Karishma is a twenty-something living in New York City and is trying her hardest to live out every cliche about Millennials. This involves eating her feelings, drowning in debt and mocking infomercials. She likes sociology so much that she has two degrees in it, and is still warding off her parents' questions about a real career.

3 replies on “Movies I’m Weirdly Obsessed With: “That Thing You Do!””

It makes sense if you’ve seen the movie, but if you’re just glancing at the cover, you’re thinking, “this isn’t going to be a Swing Kids situation with the surprise, everyone is dying and it’s way sadder than you thought a dance movie should be, is it?”

Also him paling around with the army guys at Disneyland is great.

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