Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 21
  2. Negative: 1 out of 21

Where To Watch

Stream On
Stream On

Critic Reviews

  1. That Thing You Do! is neither overly sentimental nor overly cynical. It looks at the invention of our pop-rock mythology, and the bands that fed it until they were consumed by it, just as you'd expect Tom Hanks to: with open eyes (and a raised eyebrow).
  2. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Good-humored and just about reeking of innocence, That Thing You Do! is what a character has in mind when he asks for "something happy, peppy, up-tempo." Leaving audiences feeling good is very much, and very successfully, on its mind. [04 Oct 1996, Pg.F1]
  3. Mr. Hanks's debut feature, written and directed with delightful good cheer, is rock-and-roll nostalgia presented as pure fizz.
  4. It doesn't overreach, doesn't cannibalize some obvious predecessors and doesn't try to drown its story about innocent music of the early '60s in the troubled waters of music in the '90s.
  5. Though Hanks keeps the satirical and critical aspects of this look at show biz fairly light, there's a lot of conviction and savvy behind the steadiness of his gaze, and his economy in evoking the flavor of the period at the beginning of the picture is priceless.
  6. Reviewed by: Mark Salisbury
    This is a lightweight but utterly loveable affair which proves Hanks is as assured behind the camera as in front of it.
  7. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    A top-notch production, exuberant period music and Hanks the actor in an important role cunningly disguise a rather slight and inconsequential narrative.
  8. In his first effort at directing a feature film, Hanks chooses his material wisely and writes it with witty, beguiling charm.
  9. 75
    The movie may be inconsequential, but in some ways that's a strength. Without hauling in a lot of deep meanings, it remembers with great warmth a time and a place.
  10. 75
    Hanks works like a sketch artist feeling his way before attempting a large canvas. His material is slight, but his writing and directing have an unforced humor and an unhurried grace that suggest he may be a natural.
  11. The picture... is well- made and entertaining, but it holds a special interest in what it says about Hanks.
  12. It's as sunny as you would expect a Hanks project to be.
  13. Tom Hanks makes his directorial debut with this likable comedy, which shows that while pop culture is a business like any other, enthusiasm and high spirits can lead to satisfaction even if major success proves elusive.
  14. It's so bright (even when it means to be serious) and bubbly that it seems mean to point out that it isn't really about anything -- except how cool sharkskin suits and Capri pants are.
  15. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Thing's opening hour is fast-paced, though not fast enough to obscure the reality that "American Graffiti" and "Diner" had sharper writing and certainly more psychological depth. [04 Oct 1996, Pg.01.D]
  16. First-time writer/director Tom Hanks stays about a half-beat ahead of the cliches with rim shots of boyish enthusiasm and deft comedy.
  17. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    This movie is so unself-consciously wholesome it's almost Gumpian.
  18. 63
    Although Hanks' film starts out strong, it finishes on shaky ground... A serio-comedy/fantasy whose light dramatic arc can't support the awkward and unnecessarily melodramatic ending.
  19. 60
    Hanks nicely lampoons the smug, stagnant, assembly-line attitude of the American pop-music establishment of the time, but it's clear that Hanks intends his Boomer-pleasing nostalgia to be strictly of the declawed variety.
  20. 40
    That Thing You Do threatens the shameless stereotypes it constructs with cats' claws, but when the deserving targets present themselves at their most vulnerable, the movie rolls over and expects audiences to stroke its tummy.
  21. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    There's evocative atmosphere in the period detail and perky faux-'60s tunes. A pity these are wasted in a movie that, like many a pop tune, has a cute idea but a simpleminded lyric.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 39 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Mar 27, 2016
    Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks follows the path of other accomplished actors of his generation as debutant filmmaker of “That Thing You Do,”Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks follows the path of other accomplished actors of his generation as debutant filmmaker of “That Thing You Do,” an immensely likable, sweet-natured tale of the quick rise to fame, and just as quick demise, of a small-town rock band.

    A feel-good movie that served as the fitting closing-night attraction at the 21st Toronto Film Festival, pic is a nostalgic crowd-pleaser that’s likely to win the hearts of both younger and older viewers, domestically and abroad. It makes perfect sense that Hanks, who’s now in the prime of his acting career, would want to try his hand at directing. At 39, with two consecutive Oscars and five blockbusters in a row to his credit, he’s probably Hollywood’s most gifted and popular star.

    The best thing to be said about Hanks’ feature debut is that it bears all the elements that have made him a movie star: boyish charm, natural ease, comic precision and, above all, generosity of spirit. While no threat in quality or appeal to “American Graffiti ,” still the quintessential end of innocence movie, and its many offshoots, “That Thing You Do” charts similar terrain, except that it’s set in l964, instead of 1962.

    Hanks situates his tale shortly after JFK’s assassination, in February ’64, a month vividly remembered in pop culture for the landmark appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Script was apparently inspired by a true incident from the Beatles chronicles when, during a tour to Japan and Australia, a sick Ringo was replaced with a guy named Jimmy Nichols.

    Set in Erie, Pa., yarn begins in Patterson’s appliance store, where Guy (Tom Everett Scott) helps his very conservative dad sell TV sets, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Clearly, though, his heart has been set on music ever since he listened to a jazz album by Del Paxton (Bill Cobbs). Opportunity knocks when a local drummer breaks his arm and Guy is approached by songwriter Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), and the energetic Bass Player (Ethan Embry) to replace him. What follows is an episodic chronicle that is as shallow as it is engaging, a collective portrait of the white boys in the band from the early days, when they were called the One-Ders and performed in local pizza joints, to their rise to fame and ultimate collapse all in a matter of months.

    Dramatic turning point occurs when the band is introduced to Mr. White (Hanks), a tough but savvy record executive, who immediately changes their name to the Wonders and methodically instructs them on how to dress, how to deliver a song, how to behave like celebs on talkshows. Under his guidance, their song rockets to the top of the charts and they go on a national tour.

    Pic ends in dreamyland California, with the band appearing on the “Hollywood TV Showcase” and making a beach party movie before disintegrating, with two of its members quitting the music world altogether. The exploration of what happens to a provincial rock band that has only one hit song is nicely executed, though it takes a whole reel for the story to begin gathering some momentum.

    Indeed, all the emotional tensions, within and outside the group, occur in the very last sequence, including a heartfelt breakup between talented individualistic songwriter Jimmy and his g.f., Faye (Liv Tyler), who has been the band’s unofficial fifth member and its best audience. Miraculously, the energetic music and evocative settings manage to keep the slender yarn afloat whenever it threatens to reveal its hollow center.

    Pic’s first half relies too heavily on the kind of montages that have become not only familiar but obligatory. Director Hanks and his producers, who include Jonathan Demme, must have realized that the narrative was undernourished and that some characters, particularly the women, were underdeveloped, for they have given their movie a wonderfully brisk tempo, shifting the story from one locale to another with great ease and panache. Ultimately, what’s lacking in the story department is more than made up for by the uniformly delightful ensemble and superb production values.

    Adam Schlesinger’s winningly melodic title song, which is repeated so many times that moviegoers will be able to hum it at the end, was reportedly selected out of more than 300 submissions.

    Without a doubt, pic’s most impressive element is its technical sheen, with radiant contributions from ace lenser Tak Fujimoto, composer Howard Shore, designer Victor Kempster, costumer Colleen Atwood and editor Richard Chew.
    Full Review »
  2. Sep 22, 2013
    Very few movies feel classic to me and merit multiple watches. The Tom Hanks-directed That Thing You Do! hits the perfect chord and rings outVery few movies feel classic to me and merit multiple watches. The Tom Hanks-directed That Thing You Do! hits the perfect chord and rings out better than perhaps any other music-inspired film at least on the lighter side of life. Look everywhere and you'll be pleased with every performance, every nuance, and the cleverly crafted subliminal message that record labels have a heavy grip on the music industry and where it has been the last several decades. The only thing that makes a music-inspired move better is the music, and That Thing You Do! has some of the catchiest, most fun numbers to back an already complete film. It's one of my favorites of all time, and certainly a bright spot of the 1990's for film. Full Review »
  3. Aug 5, 2015
    An all-time favorite. I love this movie. Tom Hanks directs, writes and stars in this hilarious Comedy/Drama about a one-hit wonder band in theAn all-time favorite. I love this movie. Tom Hanks directs, writes and stars in this hilarious Comedy/Drama about a one-hit wonder band in the 1960s. Everything really seems like you are really in the 60s. Tom Everett Scott, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Liv Tyler, and Johnathon Schaech are perfect as well. An all-around perfect movie and one that merits a watch. Full Review »