Heart and Souls is a 1993 fantasy-comedy directed by Ron Underwood (Tremors, City Slickers). The film stars Robert Downey, Jr., Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodward, Charles Grodin, Tom Sizemore, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is about four ghosts who are the guardian angels of one living man, and they use him to help them complete their unfinished business in order to ascend to heaven. It is one of my favorite films of all time, because it is a really positive and happy movie about second chances and making the most out of life.
Four people die in a bus crash in 1959 San Francisco, and become the guardian angels to a baby boy named Thomas, who was born at the same time they died. They can be seen only by him. Seven years later, when Thomas’ parents worry about him talking to his “imaginary friends” and consider having him committed to a mental institution, the ghosts decide to make themselves invisible to Thomas in order to protect him.
Nearly 35 years later, Thomas has forgotten about the ghosts, and has become a high-powered yuppie jerk, only caring about money and status. He is selfish and thoughtless, and keeps his girlfriend at arm’s length, fearing commitment with her. The ghosts, who have been with him all of his life, find out from the ghost of the bus driver that caused the accident that they were supposed to use Thomas’ body in order to resolve their problems from their lives, which would allow them to leave limbo and go to heaven. When they reveal themselves to Thomas and explain their predicament, it takes a lot of convincing on their part to get him to agree to this arrangement in order to free their souls.
Robert Downey, Jr. showed a lot of talent for physical comedy, taking on the personality, voice, and mannerisms of each ghost. It showed a lot of versatility in his talent as an actor, and is an underrated performance from him.
The performances from the cast playing the ghosts really make this film special, as they put a lot of personality and character into four ordinary people from different walks of life. Milo (Tom Sizemore) is a thief who stole petty things for rich people, and his lowest moment came before his death, when he stole rare stamps from a ten-year old boy. He regretted it, and uses Thomas to get them back. Harrison (Charles Grodin) was an opera singer with stage fright, who quit an audition due to his fears, and uses Thomas to get over his fear of singing before an audience. Penny (Alfre Woodward) was a single mother of three who worked the night shift as a telephone operator, and wanted to find her kids, who were split up in foster homes and adoptive families after her death. She uses Thomas to investigate about their whereabouts. And Julia (Kyra Sedgwick), like Thomas, kept her boyfriend at arm’s length and pushed away his marriage proposals until it was too late, and wants to search for him to deliver a message of love.
One of the best scenes in the film is due to Alfre Woodward’s performance, where she finds her long-lost son. Her happiness and joy is absolutely infectious, and she fills the scene with so much spirit and elation of a mother being reunited with her son. It is a very charming performance from her, taking what could be an overly sentimental scene and making it touching.
The film is very enjoyable, and is a light movie that mixes in fantasy and comedy, and is an unusual premise for a family-friendly movie. It was a modest success when it came out, but I recommend it as a sweet and funny film.