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Extended and director's cuts aren't always a good thing. That Thing You Do!, which served as Tom Hanks' directoral debut, has just been re-released with over 40 minutes of additional scenes. A true case of subtraction by addition.
Most DVD releases include a deleted scenes section. If the deleted scenes have a commentary or introduction, the director will often say that a particular scene was dropped for “pacing” or to help “move the story along.” The importance of pacing in a movie has never been more obvious than after watching the “Tom Hanks’ Extended Cut” of his 1996 tribute to the pop music scene of the early 1960’s, That Thing You Do!. The just-released extended cut adds scenes from the cutting room floor into a light, zippy film and turns it into a sluggish, over-long blunder.
Tom Hanks wrote, directed, and co-starred in That Thing You Do! at a time when he was the hottest thing in Hollywood. Fresh from back-to-back Oscar wins (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump) and box-office bonanza (Apollo 13, Toy Story) he could do as he liked. Instead of making some sort of “statement” film, Hanks came up with a lightweight look at a garage band caught in the whirlwind ride to the top of the pop charts in 1964. As a peppy dramedy, the story of The Wonders (Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, and Ethan Embry), their loyal gal pal Faye (Liv Tyler), and the record company honcho herding them to stardom, Mr. White (Hanks), is just undemanding fun.
The extended cut adds almost 45 additional minutes and swells the running time to 155 minutes. That’s epic action-adventure movie length. The additional scenes do give some information that is only hinted at in the movie (Mr. White is gay?) but the stuff was dropped for good reason as the pace slows down to a crawl. It takes forever to get the band moving forward towards their ultimate trip to California. Too much time is spent on Guy’s (Scott) relationship with Tina (Charlize Theron) and on fleshing out his relationship with his family. There just isn’t enough going on in the plot to warrant adding back the vignettes Hanks wisely removed the first time around.
It is unlikely that anyone who enjoyed the original version of That Thing You Do! will appreciate the pace of this new version. New fans will probably wonder why it appears to take so much time to get to the point of any segment. Both groups should stick to the original (which is thankfully included on the new release) and only view the extended cut if you want to remind yourself why a good editor is so important to a movie.
Despite the mediocre quality of the new extended cut, the new 2-disc version of That Thing You Do! is a good pick-up for people who never got the original DVD. The original version is also presented on the first disc so you do have the option of picking either cut of the film. Neither version contains a commentary (although Amazon advertises a commentary, it is not listed on the box nor contained on the disc.) In fact, Tom Hanks is the one person involved in the original project who couldn’t be bothered to contribute anything. The extended version is called “Tom Hanks’ Extended Cut,” but his absence from any of the new extras makes it more likely that the studio stuffed the deleted scenes into the movie and then he approved the final product.
Although Hanks doesn’t show up in any new material, most of the rest of the cast does. Scott, Schaech, Zahn, Embry, and Theron are interviewed in a Wonders reunion segment. Zahn is interviewed separately and the others reminisce together. Most of the comments are about how fun it was to make the movie, how great Tom Hanks was, and how they learned to play their instruments and loved pretending to be rock stars. There is also a segment about a publicity tour to Japan that the Wonders took with Hanks to promote the film back in 1996. Home video of the trip is interspersed with the four guys talking about their experiences.
Another new extra is called “The Story of the Wonders.” This primarily focuses on the characters rather than a typical making-of discussion. The interviews are from 1996, so there is no hindsight or perspective provided. Hanks is given the lion’s share of the time and he (and everyone else) go on a bit long about these fairly stereotypical characters. “Making That Thing You Do!” covers much of the same ground but adds in segments about the script and other non-character parts of the movie. Again, all the interviews are from 1996, although all of the above extras are called “exclusive” as they did not appear on previous DVD versions and were made directly for this release.
Seen before is an HBO First Look making-of documentary hosted by Martha Quinn. This was produced for the theatrical release and many of the comments heard in the new featurettes were recycled from this documentary. It’s hardly distinguishable from the other making of features. There are also a few trailers and a music video for the song “Feel Alright.”
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