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Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) is a young man who spends his days waiting on nice ladies in his father’s appliance shop in Erie, PA. At night, he puts a record on the console stereo, turns up the music, and beats his drums to the tunes. Jazz is his dream. Meanwhile, four other friends are putting together a rock-and-roll group, but just before the big show, their drummer breaks an arm while trying to jump one too many parking meters. Guy is asked if he will sub, and in so doing, begins his career as the main creative force behind The Oneders (later spelt The Wonders), a band that is about to hit the big time.

These unknowns really are finding their way to the top—both as the fictitious musicians and as aspiring actors in reality. Considering this is the first film project Tom Hanks has written and directed, he takes an incredible risk by casting a virtually nameless group of young people—yet that’s exactly what makes this film so believable. (Liv Taylor, who plays Faye and Charlize Theron in a bit part as a beautiful-but-blithe blonde, have gone on to great acclaim. The four men have also pursued careers in film and TV.)

Capturing the innocence and excitement of trying to break into the music industry, the story of these one-hit wonders is sure to delight anyone who has secretly nurtured a desire for the fame and fortune of showbiz. The movie is also a good pick for family audiences because it holds very little objectionable content, with just a few minor expletives, some mild innuendos and a couple of implied sexual relationships. Perhaps the biggest concern will be the frequent social drinking (one character is depicted as drunk and later hung-over), and smoking (a common occurrence in the time period in which the film is set.)

Full of sixties memorabilia and styles that are sure to have your teens chuckling, Tom Hanks’ scriptwriting and directing efforts appear to be climbing the charts. So, if you are searching for a light and snappy film, chances are this one will be a hit. Just be prepared to hum the band’s winning single, “That Thing You Do,” for days after watching this movie. (The incredibly catchy tune, which plays umpteen times, was responsible for getting the film an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.)

That Thing You Do: The Extend Cut

Actor/writer/director Tom Hanks releases his hit movie That Thing You Do! to home video in an Extended Cut edition. This unrated, extra-length version now includes a lot more potential content concerns. Capitalizing on the fame that actress Charlize Theron has gone on to enjoy, the extra-length edition puts back numerous scenes featuring her minor character (she plays Tina, Guy’s vain girlfriend) that were cut from the theatrical release. Although most of these revolve around a romance with her dentist (an endless array of flirting moments with the good-looking tooth specialist), there is one where she and Guy are shown laying on a couch, while they neck and the young man strokes her bare shoulder (her bra strap is shown). As well, the sexual encounter of another band member is implied and a possible homosexual relationship is alluded to. There are a quite a few more profanities too (usually mild language and terms of deity), plus the depiction of smoking and drinking—once to the point of passing out.

Directed by Tom Hanks . Starring Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release October 4, 1996. Updated July 17, 2017

About author

Rod Gustafson

Rod Gustafson has worked in various media industries since 1977. He founded Parent Previews in 1993, and today continues to write and broadcast the reviews in newspapers, on radio and (of course) on the Internet. His efforts also include writing and researching media in all its forms and observing how it effects society and culture. He and his wife Donna have four children.