Suburbans [1999]

Sort of a cross between That Thing You Do! and Still Crazy, The Suburbans follows a one-hit '80s new-wave band (played by Craig Bierko, Will Ferrell, and cowriters Tony Guma and Donal Lardner Ward) who pull themselves together to play their hit at a wedding and then find themselves pursued by a young record executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) who wants to revive their careers. The band is enthusiastic until they discover that their rock career is now becoming a a combination of muckraking interviews and intrusive, round-the-clock videotaping à la VH1's Behind the Music. The movie's strength is that it avoids easy targets and focuses on personalities, which provides a lot of room for some surprising offbeat bits--cameos by Ben and Jerry Stiller are particularly funny. Hewitt is sweet and wears many cute, skimpy outfits. Amy Brenneman, as Ward's girlfriend, is excellent and makes the movie more than an entertainment pastiche. Ward, who also directed, would probably have been better off not casting himself in the lead, but he sustains a puppy-doggish appeal. Bierko, Ferrell, and Guma all acquit themselves well. And perhaps most importantly, their hit song, which is played several times, is actually an enjoyable slice of power pop with a bit of a Mersey-beat flavor. --Bret Fetzer

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