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Heart and Souls Reviews

In this lighthearted tearjerker from the director of CITY SLICKERS, a foursome of good-natured ghosts enlist the aid of a young businessman to wrap up their loose ends before they move on to the hereafter. San Francisco, 1959. We glimpse the lives of four people: Harrison Winslow (Charles Grodin), a shy librarian and aspiring singer; Penny Washington (Alfre Woodard), an overworked mother; Julia (Kyra Sedgewick), a farm girl turned waitress; and Milo Peck (Tom Sizemore), a burglar. All wind up on the same crosstown bus, and a sudden accident kills everyone on board. The spirits of the four are drawn out of the wreck and become linked to a newborn child, Thomas Reilly: only he can see and hear them, and they are unable to travel more than a few yards from the boy. Later, to "cure" him of what his parents believe are hallucinations, the four ghosts reluctantly agree to disappear. For 25 years the ghosts languish in this state--invisible, but still anchored to Thomas who, left to his own devices, becomes a somewhat predatory businessman (Robert Downey Jr.). One afternoon, the ghosts are visited by a spectral bus, whose driver (David Paymer) offers them a chance to leave this limbo for the next world. First, however, they must set right the wrongs they committed during their lifetimes--and in order to do so, they're given the power to enter Thomas's body. The results are mildly comical and occasionally poignant. HEART AND SOULS was Downey's first film after his Oscar-nominated performance in CHAPLIN, but he refrains, thankfully, from pulling a star turn. Instead, HEART AND SOULS remains largely an ensemble effort, with skilled performances by all five of the lead actors. Apart from Downey's few scenes in which his body is taken over by one of the spirits (scenes warmly reminiscent of Steve Martin in ALL OF ME), the characterizations are low-key and unhurried, allowing the story to unfold at its own pace. Similarly, the physical comedy never quite breaks down into slapstick; the potentially sappy scenes never quite turn maudlin.