Review: Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns)
I like They Might Be Giants. I like them a lot actually, but at this point (and especially in 2002) I don't think they warrant a feature length film. Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns) is an hour-long appreciation stretched to avoid short film status. The same can be said for the Fugazi documentary.
Gigantic is a love letter to a band that deserves a bunch of hugs and kisses, so I don't fault it for that. Still, it reminds me of a 60 Minutes segment that lasts 102 minutes. Celebs sing the band's praises and speak song lyrics, Senator Paul Simon gives a lecture on President Lincoln, videos prove their cleverness, John and John participate fully and Joe Franklin, a god of NY kitsch, speaks of them with wide emotion, which for him is like a rock crying. Ira Glass and Sarah Vowell appear a lot, and it hits me that TMBG are a perfect NPR band.
The history of the band is interesting but I wonder if anyone would come away from it thinking TMBG were (and are) innovative in ways never seen before. Maybe in the context of alternative music of the mid to late 80s, but definitely not before that. The new wave era is littered with clever bands with clever gimmicks. TMBG rate highly on the clever-meter but they didn't invent that wheel. That's just the old guy in me telling you kids you don't know nuthin'!
Here and there I got the impression they were trying for the same eccentric vibe of True Stories, with the East Village of NY standing in for Texas. My favorite factoid from the film is that many of their early songs didn't have long sustained notes because they tended to shut off or rewind the thrift store answering machine they used for their free Dial-A-Song service. 718-387-6962 just keeps ringing but they have a website now.
There's no story arc, just a story. There's no tension, no conflict and no tragedy that had to be overcome. It's a nice movie about nice people who record nice music. Weeeeeeeee!