When you have kids with large age differences, family movie night can be a pain in the ass. The movies have to be tailored to the younger kids, which means the older kid still can’t watch Die Hard on family movie night, and the adults have to watch another goddamn “family film.” After you’ve run through all the decent ones, you find yourself grasping for anything both suitable and entertaining for 7-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and adults. Here’s how you know when you’ve hit a brick wall: You’re dialing up Steve Martin’s thoroughly mediocre Cheaper by the Dozen, and ignoring Common Sense Media’s advice to restrict it to those only over the age of 10.
The other day, however, I was watching Andrea Savage’s brilliant comedy I’m Sorry, when my wife walked into the room and asked who the dude was. “That’s Tom Everett Scott,” I said, and she said, “Who is that?” and I said, “The guy from That Thing You Do!, and she said, “Never heard of it,” and I said, “Holy shit! How have you never heard of That Thing You Do!. Were your parents hippies who raised you off the grid without electricity?” and she said, “Yes,” and I said, “Oh yeah. I forgot.”
Anyway, that’s how we all ended up around the TV on Saturday watching That Thing You Do!, which we rented from Amazon Prime (filthy capitalist swine — but convenient on our smart TV!).
Shortly into the movie, Charlize Theron’s character shows up. I turn to my wife and say, “Look! Charlize! She’s in this for like 20 seconds.”
A few minutes later, however, there’s a 5-minute makeout scene between Charlize’s character and that of Tom Everett Scott’s, and I’m like, “I don’t remember that. At all,” while my wife is like, “Are you sure this is suitable for kids?”
Thankfully, that make-out scene is as randy as That Thing You Do! gets, but not only was Charlize in it far more than I remembered, but about halfway through the film, I noticed that the movie I once remembered being snappy, quick, and fun — like its title song — began to drag. I hit the pause button to see how much time was left, only to discover that the runtime on That Thing You Do! was a whopping two hours and 27 minutes long.
“WHAT?” My wife said. “TWO AND A HALF HOURS!?”
After a quick investigation, I realized that we’d stumbled upon the Extended Cut, because the Extended Cut is apparently the only cut available on Amazon, although that took a minute to work out because Amazon offers the separate “Extended Cut,” but both versions offered by the streaming service are the same 147-minute movie.
I would discover later that the theatrical cut is offered on both Google Play and iTunes, but we were already halfway through the extended cut and had already plunked down our $3.99, so there was no going back.
However, let me offer this piece of advice to anyone ever considering watching or rewatching That Thing You Do: Never, ever watch the extended cut. Many fans of the movie might think, “But how could more of a good thing be bad?” The extended cut is like taking the perfect 3-minute pop song and adding a minute-long and unnecessary guitar solo and maybe an extra chorus and way more cowbell when there is no call for more cowbell! It transforms the perfect pop ditty into a messy song that never ends.
Probably close to half of the extra 40 minutes in the extended cut is devoted to Charlize Theron’s pointless storyline. It basically entails her growing increasingly distant from Tom as the band gets bigger, and her falling in love with her dentist, although even in the extended cut, the storyline ultimately fizzles into nothing. It’s a complete waste of 20 minutes.
Otherwise, it’s mostly individual scenes that go longer. There are more rehearsals in the garage, and a little more time with Guy’s disapproving parents, and the break-up scene between Liv Tyler’s character and Jimmy is harsher than I remember. It’s not that the scenes are bad, individually (in fact, some even provide added context), it’s just that the sum total of them all slows the film’s momentum to a crawl.
There’s also, interestingly, a scene in the extended cut that gives the distinct impression that Tom Hanks’ character is not only gay, but that he’s in a relationship with a character played by Howie Long, which I thought was surprisingly progressive for a 1996 family film (A little Internet research suggests this is likely true, as the real-life figure Tom Hanks’ manager character is inspired by was gay. Sadly, it may also explain why it was left out of the theatrical version.).
(Also, Bryan Cranston plays Gus Grissom in the film — both versions — which I did not recall from my earlier viewings, but it’s likely because That Thing You Do! precedes even Malcolm in the Middle, so I would have had no idea who he was.)
Anyway, the tl;dr is this: That Thing You Do! is a terrifically cute film about the rise and fall of a one-hit wonder, perfect for ages 6 and up (in families where the word “asshole” is not uncommon), but the extended cut is a tiresome, bloated, and exhausting film inappropriate to all ages.
The title song, though, is still 🔥🔥🔥.
Header Image Source: Playtone Pictures