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When I first got into DVD over two years ago, things were quite different to what they are now.  DVDs weren't very popular and cost a lot more then they do today.  Just 2 years ago a new release DVD would cost me upwards of $30, now it's in the $15-$25 range.  Another thing was the selection of titles, most of my favorite movies of the time weren't released on the format.  So on January 5th 1999, I bought my first DVD.  'Disturbing Behaviour' starring Katie Holmes who I had a crush on at the time.  I didn't even have a DVD player - and wouldn't until months later.  So when I wanted to watch my DVD I had to go across the street to my friends place. Months passed and a couple more DVDs joined 'Disturbing' on the shelf.  It wouldn't be until October of 1999 when I got a new computer that I'd finally have a way to watch the titles whenever I wanted.  At the time when discs were still in the $30 range I decided that aside from a select few, I wouldn't replace my VHS tapes with DVD.  Well that hasn't quite worked out as planned, as I've replaced almost every single VHS tape I own with the DVD.  It has been in recent months that I feel DVD has truly gone mainstream as some of my favorite movies of my high school and childhood periods of my life are now on DVD.  Now another movie that brings back memories of school is released on DVD.  The Tom Hanks directed feature 'That Thing You Do!'

That Thing You Do!
Movie
'That Thing You Do!' is a story about a group of friends that form a band in the small town of Erie, PA. There's Jimmy (Jonathon Schaech), the singer-songwriter, there's Lenny (Steve Zahn) the cocky class clown type guy on the guitar, drummer Chad (Giovanni Ribisi) and last but not least the bass player (Ethan Embry).  In addition to the band, we have Faye (the lovely Liv Tyler) - Jimmy's girlfriend of two years.  As the movie starts they are sitting around having breakfast in a local greasy spoon trying to figure out a name for their band as they have their first big gig that night at the Mercey Hurst College Talent show.  In the middle of their conversation Guy "Skitch" Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) walks into pick up an order for take out and as per usual, he is insulted by Lenny.  You see unlike the others, Guy has a job working for his dad at 'Patterson Appliances'.  The argument about the band name spills out into the street with Jimmy and Lenny continually debating names with Faye and Chad, and the bass players taking turns jumping over parking meters.  When Chad falls down and hurts himself, it doesn't look good for the gig.  Meanwhile Guy is busy selling radios and washers to old ladies over at the family business where he is propositioned by Lenny and Jimmy.  They need him to fill in on the skins for one night.  He agrees after blackmailing them into buying a clock radio and some record needles.  So the band now has a drummer again and they head over to Jimmy's garage to rehearse the track.

Their song is a slow paced ditty entitled, 'That Thing You Do!', and is really pretty simple musically.  Guy manages to pick up the song pretty fast and shouts out "Wonderful" as he plans to leave.  Faye says that's it, the One-Ders, with an "one" like how the Beatles use the "bea".  Lenny chirps in that it sounds like the "Oh Needers" but despite Lenny's comments the One-Ders are born.

It's time for the talent show and the boys are ready to go on and when it's finally their turn, Guy starts playing the song too fast, as a result, Jimmy and the others can't keep up.  Despite this the crowd starts to get up to dance and really gets into the song.  Before they know it the band has won the talent show and has been offered a weekly gig at a small club out by the airport.  All thanks to Guy and his sped up version of Jimmy's song.  Before long they have recorded a single and are approached by a manager named Phil who promises to get their song on the radio.  Not long after that their song is on the radio and they are part of a radio station sponsored rock show in Pittsburgh. It's here where Phil introduces Guy to Mr White (Tom Hanks) a record executive/manager with Play-Tone Records who wants to sign The Wonders (changed at the request of Mr White) to a recording contract and put them on tour with other stars of the Play-tone galaxy.  Suddenly a band that almost wasn't a few weeks back is heading for the big time.

Director Hanks has assembled an excellent group of actors to bring the Wonders to life. Jonathon Schaech plays Jimmy without reservation.  As the film progresses you will find yourself liking Jimmy less and less.  Jimmy's focus is different from the rest of the band, the rest of the band is trying to enjoy their success while Jimmy seems to be focused on making sure he doesn't become a one hit wonder.  Steve Zahn is one of the most talented comedic actors working in Hollywood today.  He's just brilliant as Lenny.  He's the loveable dope, sure he may not be the smartest or best player technically in the band but you can tell his heart is in it.  Here's me hoping Steve can get some bigger roles in the future.  Also worth mentioning in the performances category is Liv Tyler who can play the girl next door or a sexy siren.  Here she plays Faye, the charming girl next door type who holds the band together.  She's long been a personal favorite of mine.  'That Thing' also features a then unknown actress by the name of Charlize Theron as Guy's girlfriend back home; who runs off with the new dentist.  Seeing Charlize here, it's not hard to see why she's now one of Hollywood's leading actresses.  While she's not given much to do here, her presence lights up the screen.  Be sure to look for cameos from Chris Issak and Tom's wife Rita Wilson.

First time director Tom Hank's 'That Thing You Do' chronicles the rise of The Wonders from their small town beginnings to the their top-ten charting song on Billboards Hot 100 and does so in a great way.  Every time The Wonders pick up their guitars and start playing their smash record it sounds better than the previous time.  He has also cast a great group of people who work well together and truly form the wonderful Wonders.  'That Thing You Do!' is a heart warming look at a charming young band and for this reason, will always hold a special place in my heart.

That Thing You Do!
Video
20th Century Fox has given 'That Thing You Do!' a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. In recent months, Fox has given the DVD consumer some excellent transfers, both on their newer product and on their catalogue product. However the transfer for 'That Thing You Do!' disappoints me a bit, in that it's just not as good as it could be.

Now don't get me wrong this is far from a bad transfer, it's just a bit of a letdown when compared to their recent work and what my expectations were. Colors are strong, print flaws are rare and the beautiful cinematography by Tak Fujimoto ('The Sixth Sense', 'Singles', 'Pretty in Pink') is accurately represented on the disc.

My major problem with the disc is that for most of the movie the image seems rather soft.  While some scenes are sharp and detailed the majority of the time this isn't the case.  The darker scenes such as in the nightclub at the beginning are especially soft and overly dark.

Overall this transfer is a tad disappointing from Fox. However, this is still the best I've seen of this film since in the theaters and thus while the transfer is a bit on the lacking side; it's far from bad and still a vast improvement over previous versions of this title on VHS.

Audio
For 'That Thing You Do!', 20th Century Fox gives us a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Some of you may be thinking that because the disc lacks the dedicated .1 LFE channel it will be lacking some serious bass.  Well if you fall into that camp then you will be very pleasantly surprised.  Just because there isn't a dedicated LFE channel doesn't mean this movie doesn't have it's share of loud bass.  Where the video transfer disappoints, the audio mix impresses.  The sound mix is very natural and doesn't over power the listener.  The movie takes place in the 1960s, a time when things were simpler and quieter.  The concert scenes sound rich and fill the room nicely though not quite as nicely as Almost Famous.  Perhaps there were major advances in concert sound technology between the late 60s when this movie takes place and the 70s when Almost Famous is set.

Also available are Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes in English and French for those without 5.1 receivers.

That Thing You Do!
Extras
20th Century Fox hasn't always been known for their fair allocation of special features.  Back in the early days of DVD, extras were few and far between; however things have changed recently and Fox has been putting out a number of top quality discs with loads of special features to boot.  However with their catalogue titles you're never sure just what to expect, as some discs have a few special features and others just a trailer or two.  Luckily Fox has decided to give us a bit more for 'That Thing You Do'.

The main highlight is a short look behind the scenes of 'That Thing You Do!', hosted by ex MTV VJ Martha Quinn.  Unlike some of the more recent featurettes this one isn't as promotional in nature as one would expect. Through behind the scenes footage and interviews with the primary stars, including Tom Hanks and Liv Tyler, the viewer is given a look into the making of the film and the fictional band 'The Wonders'. Since I'm a fan of this flick this was nothing too new for me but for the casual fan of the film this will provide some insight into the making of the movie.

Next up we have an assortment of trailers for the film, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and in 2.35:1 widescreen. It's interesting that the trailers are in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio as the final released print ratio was 1.85:1.  Included in the trailer section are two english trailers, two Italian trailers and two Spanish trailers.

Also included are music videos for the title track and 'Dance with Me Tonite' both by the 'The Wonders'; which are basically extended versions of scenes found within the film, they are presented in full frame with DD 2.0 sound.

Rounding out the disc are 6 TV spots promoting the movie both before and after it's release.

While it would have been nice to have a commentary with Hanks, I'm a bit happier here than I was with Warner Brother's release of 'Empire Records' another favorite from my high school days. Hopefully one day in the future Hanks will want to sit down and talk and we'll see a 'That Thing You Do' SE but until then this is a pretty good holdover.

'That Thing You Do!' is a comedic and often touching look at a band trying to make it in the ever difficult world of music.  For those who are already fans of the film be sure to pick up this disc.  For those who liked Cameron Crowe's 'Almost Famous' this is another good bet and can generally be found for under $20.


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