The Movie Archive

Heart and Souls

Movie Poster of Heart and Souls

Directed by: Ron Underwood
Screenwriter(s): Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson, Gregory Hansen, Erik Hansen
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Alfré Woodard, Charles Grodin, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Elisabeth Shue
Genre: Comedy
Country: USA
Year released: 1993
Running time: 1h 44m
Rating: 7 out of 10

In the mid-1950s, four disparate people (Grodin, Sedgwick, Sizemore and Woodard) are involved in a bus crash and die at the exact moment of a baby boy’s birth. Through the kind of celestial meddling we are already familiar with from films such as Heaven Can Wait, their souls become associated with this new life. Throughout his childhood, they appear to Thomas, and only to him but, frankly, his parents and teachers do not embrace the concept of four invisible adult playmates and put him in therapy. To save Thomas from any needless pain, they disappear from his life.

Unfortunately for our four ghosts, they missed the orientation meeting at guardian angel school and, as Thomas (Downey Jr) fast approaches his 30th birthday, they find out that each of them must resolve their own outstanding issues with the mortal world before Thomas’ birthday. Naturally, this is so that their souls can be recycled into new lives. So they reappear to Thomas, now a glorified repo-man for a financial institution, and try to gain his help in righting their wrongs.

Of course, this is not an easy task—if it were, it would be a 30-minute Twilight Zone episode and not a movie—as Thomas has become an embittered cynic who is afraid of commitment to his long-suffering girlfriend (Shue) because of a huge fear that everyone he loves ends up leaving him. This fear has obviously been caused by the four people now confronting him, the same people he has completely blocked out from his memories.

This soft-hearted fairytale is a showcase for Downey Jr’s considerable comedic talents, especially when he has to react to his body being ‘invaded’ by the others. There are some great set pieces, such as Downey Jr’s rousing version of the US national anthem and a fabulously crude Sizemore causing havoc in the boardroom, but it’s the warmth of the performances that linger in the memory. And none more so than the always-excellent Woodard as a single mother who just wants the best for her own children and the new extended family she has found in Thomas and the other ghosts. for me, she may well be the finest supporting actress working in film.

One of the kind of films they supposedly don’t make anymore, this is a genuinely enchanting fantasy that will charm young and old alike.