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Don't let's stop 

I first heard They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man" 15 years ago after calling their dial-a-song service, and today I sometimes sing it to my daughter when she's having trouble sleeping. Judging from the documentary Gigantic:

Director A.J. Schnack recounts how nasal New Englanders John Linnell and John Flansburgh found audiences in the 1980s through humorous, hook-laden tunes like "Don't Let's Start." When musical tastes shifted in the 1990s, the group's aging fan base become pop culture decision-makers, leading to such gigs as recording the themes to "The Daily Show" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

The film traces Linnell and Flansburgh from Manhattan's post-punk performance art scene to today's downloadable online environment. Gigantic gets close enough to explore the balanced working dynamic of "the Johns," with Linnell (the long-haired accordion player) proving more of a poet, and Flansburgh (the bespectacled guitarist) the rock 'n' roll showman. They may be almost too happy for dramatic purposes, as Gigantic finds no "Behind the Music" style feuds or addictions worse than coffee.

Gigantic includes snippets of animation and other ephemera -- like a high school debate team's argument over "Particle Man's" lyrics -- in keeping, rather nostalgically so, with that particularly 1980s brand of irony espoused by David Letterman, Talking Heads and the band themselves.

Gigantic devotes too much time trying to replicate the band's sensibility and letting admirers like Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers blab about it. We'd much rather see more of They Might Be Giants in action, through longer clips from their music videos and 2001 concert footage. While Gigantic is an unquestionably loving portrait of They Might Be Giants, you wish Schnack had spent more time letting their songs speak for themselves.

Oddly enough, Gigantic never mentions that They Might Be Giants is the title of a 1971 George C. Scott comedy. I just thought somebody ought to.

Opens Oct. 17 at Madstone Theaters Parkside.

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