Sunday, January 3, 2010

That Thing You Do!

Year 2, Day 2 - 1/2/10 - Movie #367

BEFORE: Continuing the quest for fame + success by putting a band together...

THE PLOT: A Pennsylvania band scores a hit in 1964 and rides the star-making machinery as long as it can, with lots of help from its manager.

AFTER: Oh, so THAT'S where the name of Tom Hanks' production company, Play-Tone, came from...

Tom Hanks wrote and directed this film, and appeared as the band's manager - the year was 1964, the Beatles had just taken over the minds of young Americans, and every man in his late teens or early twenties was learning how to strum a guitar or bang a drum, while trying to come up with a clever name like the Ladybugs or the Cockroaches and going on tour.

Essentially, this IS the Beatles' story, only transplanted to Erie, PA and thinly veiled...the archetypes are basically the same - the withdrawn, moody composer, the brash outgoing drummer, the cute one, and the naive goofy guitarist. This is not just about the 4 guys, it's about the culture of 1964, since after the Beatles broke it seemed like all a band needed was four guys in suits and a catchy hook for a tune.

And the tune is actually a good one - "That Thing You Do!" sounds like the best hit that the Beatles forgot to write. I'd love to see a musical breakdown of it, it's like "Hold Me Tight" in the key of "Thank You Girl" with the lyrics from "Please Please Me"... It's catchier than the band's name, which is the "One-Ders" - it's pronounced like "Wonders", but everyone keep pronouncing it like "O-Needers".

Enter Mr. White (Tom Hanks) from Play-Tone Records, and the band goes on tour to promote the single. They play state fairs and appear in the background of one of those "Beach Party" movies...I used to love those. They get to L.A. and get a taste of the big-time, staying at the Ambassador Hotel and hanging out with starlets and cocktail waitresses.

While in a jazz club, Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) meets his boyhood idol, jazz musician Del Paxton (Bill Cobbs), and Del tells him that bands come and go - they're eventually broken up by women, money, or just time. So he should keep playing music, and watch his money. That's really good advice to keep in mind as we explore the perils of being famous...

Also starring H.M.Y. regular Steve Zahn ("Happy, Texas", "Safe Men"), Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry (Rusty Griswold from "Vegas Vacation") and Charlize Theron, with cameos from Alex Rocco, Peter Scolari, Rita Wilson, Chris Isaak, Kevin Pollak - and Bryan Cranston as astronaut Gus Grissom. Gee, it must be nice to be Tom Hanks, and just open up your rolodex when you want to cast a movie...

This movie gets edged out by "The Commitments" because that band had a repertoire of about a dozen songs, and the Wonders just have the one hit, which they play over and's called showmanship, people.

RATING: 6 out of 10 clock radios

No comments:

Post a Comment