Making a movie set in a particular time period and using actual music from that era to help capture the feelings of the period is one thing, and I suppose like everything else about filmmaking, it can be a challenge to do it right. But it seems to me that coming up with new music that sounds just like it really is from another era would be even more difficult. That’s exactly what Tom Hanks and a number of collaborators did with the music for the movie THAT THING YOU DO, which was also written and directed by Hanks.
Set in the early 1960s, the songs from THAT THING YOU DO are a near-perfect blend of the musical styles from that era. The soundtrack begins with the Mitch Miller-like “Loving You Lots and Lots”, then follows up with the title song and several others performed by the fictional group from the movie, The Wonders. “Mr. Downtown” is a jazzy, noirish tune reminiscent of the theme from PETER GUNN, while “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” sounds like it could have been performed by any number of girl groups from that era. “Voyage Around the Moon” captures the same instrumental sound as “Telstar” and other hits inspired by the Space Age. “My World is Over” is a sad ballad, “Drive Faster” a hot rod song, and “Shrimp Shack” another instrumental from a fictional beach movie within the movie. (I can imagine Candy Johnson shimmying to “Shrimp Shack” without any problem.) The soundtrack wraps up with a long, smoky piano jazz song and a “live” reprise of the title song.
“That Thing You Do”, the song, was written by Adam Schlesinger from one of my favorite groups, Fountains of Wayne, and in fact to me The Wonders sound a lot like Fountains of Wayne.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost fifteen years since THAT THING YOU DO came out. It’s a fine film, and the soundtrack does a beautiful job of capturing the era in which it’s set. And it’s just great fun to listen to, especially if you lived through those days and heard songs like these all the time.