That Thing You Do (1996) - (Extended Cut -2007)

That Thing You Do is a very appealing film. Covering the rise and subsequent implosion of fictional 60's pop band, The Wonders (yes, in fact, One Hit Wonders), the movie is actually quite a bit better than it has any right to be. The screenplay, written by Tom Hanks, is a moderately formulaic love story, but gains depth from sub-plots about the music business, creativity and the elusive pursuit of art.

The central character is the drummer, late come to the band after the original drummer breaks his arm. The band wins a local talent show, cuts a demo, is picked up by a manager and then a major label, appears on TV and then breaks up over creative control issues. During their skyrocket to the top, the relationship between the main creative talent, the singer-songwriter-guitarist, and his girlfriend disintegrates. In a twist that should come as a surprise to no one, the drummer gets the girl and they live happily ever after.

Trite? Probably. But well executed. As I say, the sub-plots raise this movie above the quagmire of mediocrity in which the plot synopsis suggests it will wallow. The performances are also good, pretty much across the board - Jonathon Schaech as Jimmy the songwriter is a little weak in a fairly thankless role. The direction, also by Hanks, is solid if uninspired. The screenplay is workmanlike with a few moments of real brilliance. The scene where the band first hears their song played on the radio is excellent, capturing in a few moments a heady cocktail of youth, joy and exuberance.

The film is a little manipulative, pushing well-worn emotional buttons in its viewers, and at times it is heavy-handed; the scene where Liv Tyler as the girlfriend, Faye, gets dumped and expresses her angst rings false, for instance. Those are relatively minor failings in what is, overall, a charming film.

This edition is an "Extended Cut" DVD, with something like an extra 30 minutes of material. You have the option of watching the theatrical release or the extended version and I watched the latter. Although there were certainly places where the run-time could have been shaved (and clearly was for the original release), the extended cut didn't play as flabby. The added material didn't seem gratuitous. In fact, I couldn't tell for sure where it was since I'm not that familiar with the original; that's a good sign, since sometimes added material really should have been left on the cutting room floor (or in the bit-bucket, in this digital age). It would have been nice, however, to have had the ability to look at the extra scenes separately.

Which brings me to my only real gripe about this release. For a 2-DVD Extended Cut, Special Edition, the DVD packaging seems weak. There is no way that I could easily find to view only the additional scenes and on the first disk there were none of the usual extras which we have come to expect from DVD special editions. This is a quibble, though, since the point of a movie is, well, the movie, and here you have it twice - and pretty darn good either way.

Overall Grade: B+

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