That Thing You Do! is a great movie. It's charming, it's witty, it's sweet. There's drama and music and laughter. It's far more perfect than should be allowed - there's not a single scene I would change or a single song that isn't pitch-perfect.
What I really love about this adorable little film is that it's a happy, cheery movie that is entertaining without being clownish and sweet without being schmaltzy. The clothing is wonderful, the characters are wonderful, the sets are wonderful, and the story is wonderful. Everything about this movie is charming and I'm delighted to be continually charmed by it.
Some of the more brilliant elements are the quieter parts of the story: not the band up on stage performing in front of screaming fans, but a phone call with the drummer's frustrated father; not the witty repartee of a bunch of jet-setters flying to LA but the conversation between two suburbanites walking down the street. Those are the brilliant bits of the flick - the little passing moments between people that we as an audience are able to simultaneously feel are completely realistic and natural but at the same time enjoy the timing and humor created by our distance from the era when the movie takes place. Mr. Patterson's complaint about the competing electronics store staying open on Sunday is funny not only because it's such a prototypical Dad thing to say in a prototypical Mom/Dad interaction but because we live in a world where it's unthinkable that an appliance store would be closed on Sundays. The film's version of Eerie PA is uncannily unfamiliar and dated but also feels like it could be two blocks over from wherever you're sitting right now. The movie does an impeccable job of being modern while still being a good representation of the time it's set in - it tries so hard (and succeeds) to make us want to visit its world while gently reminding us that it wasn't a very nice place to live in, all while never being nasty or overtly dramatic.
That Thing You Do! was the first feature film that Hanks directed (his second and so far last, Larry Crowne, is...let's say less charming) and is a wonderful effort on his part. Everyone in it turns in a great performance, the visuals are lovely and transporting, and the sound track is phenomenally rad.