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A waitress, a singer, a thief, and a mother
Get onto a bus but don’t know one another.
That changes tonight when a bus accident
Deprives them of life, leaving no one content.
Remaining as ghosts, they are tied to a boy,
Newborn Thomas Reilly, their pride and their joy.
Yet as he grows up, his invisible friends
Perceive that their presence is starting bad trends.
They vanish from view, and through maddening years,
They wait in his shadow, where none interferes…
Until a bus driver arrives for the souls,
Explaining they should have all settled their goals.
Their unfinished business now has urgency,
And Thomas has no choice but help with their plea.
Meanwhile, relationship troubles persist,
Especially with all the ghosts in their midst.
A wrong now made right and a brave second chance,
A sudden reunion and broken romance
Fulfill everyone as the souls each depart
And Thomas decides to be true to his heart.

Have you ever gotten on a bus with a bunch of total strangers? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend eternity getting to know them, whether you liked it or not? I first saw Heart and Souls as a kid, enjoyed it tremendously, and then promptly forgot about it for some years. When I rewatched it more recently, I was surprised to find it just as funny and touching as I remembered it.

This was my first introduction to several famous actors, particularly Robert Downey, Jr. as Thomas Reilly. Though his career quickly went downhill in the subsequent years (before his triumphant comeback), Heart and Souls came right after his Oscar-nominated role in Chaplin and utilizes some of the slapstick talent he displayed in that film. His acting chops are obvious, as his character is forced to do impressions of his invisible companions when they take over his body, with hilarious results. All the other actors are in top form, including Elizabeth Shue as Thomas’s girlfriend Anne, Charles Grodin as timid would-be opera singer Harrison, Kyra Sedgwick as vacillating lover Julia, Alfre Woodard as devoted mother Penny, and Tom Sizemore as lecherous burglar Milo. Their interaction with each other is just one of the film’s strengths, since spending decades within ten feet of the same people would understandably wear on the nerves while also building unexpected friendships. Their relationship with Thomas is sweet throughout, whether entertaining him with “Walk Like a Man” as a child (played by Eric Lloyd, or Charlie from The Santa Clause) or berating his jerkish tendencies as an adult.

Though the transcendent impetus for their unfinished business may imply reincarnation or guardian angel fallacies, the film is not concerned with religion but rather with the ghosts’ unfinished lives. Each of them has something that would fulfill them, whether it’s realizing a dream or learning of those they left behind, and as each ambition is achieved, there’s a satisfying sense of accomplishment worthy of a triumphant cheer or a wiped-away tear. Heart and Souls is a film I will always be fond of, for it touches both heart and funny bone in all the best ways.

Best line: (Thomas, when Harrison assumes he will remain a failure) “No offense, Harrison, but you died a failure because you never tried.”

Rank: 59 out of 60

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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