Documentary film, directed by A.J. Schnack, chronicling the life and times of the collaboration between John Flansburgh and John Linnell, better known as They Might Be Giants. It premiered at the South by Southwest festival on March 10, 2002, and began to cross the country on the film festival circuit, with A.J. Schnack and John Flansburgh appearing in person at many of the screenings.
Shot on digital video during 2001, the film primarily combines talking head interviews with concert footage, plus behind the scenes footage of the band on the road, backstage at TV shows, and in the recording studio working on the album “Mink Car,” plus old rare clips such as videotape of early ‘80s East Village performances and a promotional video for the album “Flood.” (“It contains nineteen songs,” brag the Johns.) There are also strange interludes that involve a couple of former presidents, a certain beverage, the debate team from the Johns’ former high school in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and dramatic readings of song lyrics performed by various “counterculture” celebrities.
Much of the concert footage was taken from a performance at the Polish National Home in Brooklyn on August 5, 2001 that was put on especially for the film and publicized via the Internet’s network of TMBG fans. A few of these fans show up as interview subjects, although most of the interviewees are slightly more famous fans of TMBG (Frank Black, Linwood Boomer of “Malcolm in the Middle” fame, Ira Glass of “This American Life” fame, et al.), people who had an influence on the Giants’ career (club owners, record company representatives, talk show host Joe Franklin, et al.), and the Johns themselves, interviewed both together and separately.
”Gigantic” works well as an introduction to the band and does a good job of capturing the most important element of the group, more important than the music: the friendship between the two Johns. For longtime fans, it’s a nostalgic look back, with the Johns and others recounting the great and not-so-great moments of the past, such as the performance of “Birdhouse in Your Soul” on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” backed up by Doc Severinsen and his orchestra, and the stage collapse in Milwaukee. The contemporary concert footage isn’t bad, either.