Moviegoers have been singing Tom Hanks' tune for most of the '90s. A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story--each movie has been a surprise hit, proof of Hanks' intelligence, craft and lopsided likability. Now Hollywood wonders, What can the guy do wrong?

This. Hanks' feature-film debut as writer-director, That Thing You Do!, tries to infuse his personality in a story set in a time of innocence: small towns, state fairs, the modest dreams of being in a band and kissing the lead singer's pretty girlfriend. But the transplant doesn't take, because Hanks hasn't...

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