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flick pick | Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) 2003
Directed by: AJ Schnack
Starring: John Flansburgh, John Linnell
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: documentary
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: quintessentially quasi-adult, true?!?, whimsical
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Way back in the 80s, two good friends from the quaint Boston suburb of Lincoln, Massachusetts joined musical forces, and They Might Be Giants was born. Laying a sonic foundation based on an unlikely blend of accordion and nasal harmonies, John Linnell and John Flansburgh began crafting some of the most strangely lovely pop-rock songs that would ever be played on college radio, and playing bizarre live shows that might easily have been described as performance art -- except that they were actually fun. Whether ruminating on how Constantinople became Istanbul, waxing poetic about a nightlight, or musing on a mysterious cowtown beneath the sea, They Might Be Giants celebrated geekdom way before dotcommers made it hip, simply by virtue of being their own oddball selves. Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) offers a closer look at the music, the fans, and the two guys behind it all.

Review There was a time in my life -- between the ages of fifteen and twenty or so -- when TMBG was easily one of my favorite bands in the world. Flood was the first CD I ever bought for my boy; I skipped my first day of freshman week revelries at college to see a free They Might Be Giants show at Boston's Hatch Shell. So it's maybe a little weird that until a friend of mine was kind enough to loan me a copy of Gigantic, I hadn't listened to a TMBG tune in many, many years. Five minutes into the movie, I couldn't remember why I ever stopped listening. The songs -- from "mainstream" hits like "Don't Let's Start" and "Ana Ng" to lesser-known tunes like "She's an Angel," a song so achingly, perfectly, happy-sad pretty that my very stoic Yankee boy used to say it made him want to cry -- are as catchy, intriguing and fresh as ever, and watching Gigantic was a bit like discovering the wonderfully off-center universe of TMBG all over again. The two Johns come across as smart, funny, self-effacing, and very down-to-earth, and while the film is an unabashedly wholehearted love letter to TMBG, it generally knows enough not to take itself too seriously. There are some funny little bits featuring famous folk like Janeane Garofolo, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Andy Richter performing deadpan "poetry" readings of various TMBG lyrics; like TMBG themselves, the segments are sort of dumb, sort of brilliant, and rather amusing. I'm not sure whether a non-fan would get a whole lot out of this documentary, but for anyone who ever obsessed over the band's music, it's a fun and inspiring look at two guys who genuinely seem to have found career success and longevity making exactly the kind of deeply quirky music they want.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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