Old Movie Review: Heart and Souls (1993)


Reese Hill, Reporter

So many new movies have come out that are gathering hype and gaining significant influence over pop culture in teens our age.  For example: the new Star Wars episodes, the rebooted Jurassic Park series, the Disney live-action films, and the ever-expanding Marvel franchise.  But with all these glamor-packed movies coming out, it makes me sad that some older, more obscure movies get swept away by the tides of time.

So I’m going to do my best to make sure certain wonderful classics will be remembered.  Instead of reviewing new movies that come out, I’m going to review aging films that not everybody has seen, but perhaps should.

Heart and Souls, released in 1993, is perhaps the sweetest and funniest movie I’ve ever seen, and currently is my favorite film.  My mom suggested the movie to me along with a string of other 90’s cult hits, and it ended up holding up to the hype.  If you dig bittersweet, laughter-filled feel-good movies, Heart and Souls will be right up your alley.

The movie begins in 1959, when Penny (Alfre Woodard), a single mother, Harrison (Charles Grodin), a singer with crippling stage fright, Julia (Kyra Sedgwick), an indecisive and charming romantic, and Milo (Tom Sizemore), a petty thief, are all killed in a drastic bus crash.  At the same time, a baby, Thomas, is being born in a car on the same bridge. The four continue as ghosts, serving as guardians to young Thomas. However, as Thomas grows older, his obsession with his imaginary friends becomes concerning towards his living parents, and fearing for his developmental health, the ghosts make themselves invisible to Thomas — still permanently attached to him.  Years later, Thomas has grown up to become an emotionally closed-off businessman (Robert Downey, Jr.) who has long pushed the dependency on his invisible companions out of his mind. But when the ghosts learn that they’re supposed to use Thomas’ help to finish their bucket lists, they reappear to him, and chaos ensues.

This movie had me laughing my head off mere seconds after it had me sobbing.  The reason the movie remains notable as a 25-year-old cult hit is its endearing purity.  Heart and Souls is about growing up, redemption, friendship, and is just plain hilarious.  The chemistry between the ghosts really convinces the audience that they have been trapped together in a purgatorial in-betweenness for 30 years.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Thomas is brilliant – Thomas is an ordinary man subjected to the most extraordinary circumstances. His acting is particularly impressive as the ghosts occasionally possess Thomas’ body, so he not only portrays one character, but five.

In addition to the wonderful acting, the writing and story of the movie itself is particularly unique and touching.  Heart and Souls explores the topic of life after death in a way that isn’t particularly religious, but still opens doors for one to interpret the story according to their own beliefs, which I highly appreciated.  Also, Thomas’ character arch gravitates around the emotional complex he developed after his imaginary friends disappeared from him, prompting him to believe he made them up on his own. He grows up to believe he can never get too close to anyone without them leaving him, which causes problems with his girlfriend.  By the end of the movie, after the ghosts fulfill their unfinished lives and move on, he has learned how to let people back into his heart.

Anyway, Heart and Souls is a gorgeously original movie in which a green city bus takes you to Heaven and imaginary friends are real.  If you’re looking for a new film to watch and upcoming movies can’t fulfill their craving, turn to the past to uncover some lost gems.  Heart and Souls is one of them.  I hope I’ve described how lovely this movie is enough to encourage you to give it a try.  It will make you feel many things: disappointment is not one of them.