thatthingcoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  Yes
1996, 108 min., Color
Rated PG for some language
Aspect ratio:  1.85:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C+

Somehow I missed That Thing You Do! when it came out in 1996, but now that it’s out on Blu-ray this musical comedy from Tom Hanks (who wrote the screenplay, directed, and appeared in the film) seems like a great choice for family movie night. Call it a sanitized version of The Commitments.

It’s also a love letter to the Sixties and one hit wonders, filled with plenty of old-time products, signage, fashions, and attitudes—a richly atmospheric film about a time when every unknown rock group was hoping for the same meteoric rise as “British Invasion” pop groups like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits.

Guy (Tom Everett Scott) works at his father’s appliance store in Erie, Pa., but his love is music and his dream is to play the drums again in a band—this time a more successful one. He gets his chance when the drummer (Gioivanni Ribisi) from a local garage band breaks his arm and the group need a fill-in for a college talent show they’re competing in. Guy ups the tempo on the band’s only good, original song and forces them to snap it up, turning a ballad into a pop song that leads to better and bigger things . . . for a while. 

Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, and Johnathon Schaech play the other band members in this tale of a band’s quick rise and be-careful-what-you-ask-for complications. Chris Ellis plays a small-time promoter and Hanks a record-label exec, while Liv Tyler appears as the only female cast member to get much airtime.

thatthingscreenAs with The Commitments, the film reflects the band’s personality. That Irish band was a little less wholesome and their music more raw, and that was the tone of the R-rated film. With That Thing You Do! the guys are more clean-cut and their music light pop—light entertainment, and that’s the best way to describe the film as well. There’s plenty of music, although the One-ders (later renamed The Wonders) only really know one great original song until Hanks’ character gives them a solid B track, so we mostly hear a lot of “That Thing You Do!” No wonder it became a musical hit the year the movie was released.

That Thing You Do! is rated PG for “some language,” but I couldn’t tell you what that language was. This is a squeaky-clean film with a wholesome core and nary a bad guy to be found—no drug use, either, and for a film about musicians, that’s quite a feat. That Thing You Do! was Tom Hanks’ big-screen directorial debut, and he gives families a light, warm-hearted comedy with a few laugh-out-loud moments.

This Blu-ray comes with two versions of the film: the theatrical version, and an extended cut that runs a whopping 147 minutes and includes a cameo by Charlize Theron. I’d recommend the theatrical version to families, as the added footage doesn’t really add to the plot or character development in a significant way—just more random moments with band members.