Twenty for Twenty: Heart and Souls

The world has changed a lot since 1993. On the 20th of each month, Twenty for Twenty takes us back to the best of 1993 and shares some gems that are gone, but shouldn’t be forgotten. If reminiscing is your thing, feel free to check out my Ten for Ten or Thirty for Thirty posts — which are literally the exact same gimmick cheaply repurposed for a combination of my own amusement and laziness.

What if I told you we could put Charles Grodin, Kyra Sedgwick, and Robert Downey Jr. into the same room and watch them perform onscreen for two hours? You’d probably have to google two of those three names like I did. But luckily 1993 beat you to the punch, and produced the heart and soul warming movie, Heart and Souls.

If Downey had made this movie ten years later it would've been called Heart and Souls and a Coke Problem.

If Downey had made this movie ten years later it would’ve been called Heart and Souls and a Coke Problem.

The premise is simple enough: four people from the 1950s find themselves in a bus crash (this is why I never take public transportation) that ends their lives prematurely. Immediately after the wreck, the find their souls mysteriously bonded to a newborn baby that had just been birthed in a nearby car. The four kind souls (played by Grodin, Sedgwick, and two other people who seem nice but whose names I didn’t care enough about to google) can only be seen and heard by the baby and as a result find themselves co-raising the child as combination imaginary friends and coconspirators (co-conSPIRITors the pun-maker in me wants to say). However — as you might expect if you had a plot you needed to advance — their presence becomes problematic for the young boy, and since they’re unable to wander further than a few yards away from him, they decide to become permanently invisible instead, leaving him to live his life as he chooses and relegating them to the role of spectators (specter spectators? Ok, that’s enough of that, pun-maker Dustin). Fast forward 30 years and the young boy has grown into a young man (portrayed by a still-boyish Downey), and the souls find out that the reason they’d been paired to him in the first place was to wrap up any loose ends that had been left dangling by their untimely deaths. So now the spirits have a limited amount of time to figure out how to reappear to Downey, reconcile 30 years of hurt feelings, AND wrap up each of the major life evens that they’d left undone.

I know that description probably doesn’t sound like anything spectacularly worth mention 20 years after its release, but believe me when I say that if you like good things, you will like this movie. RDJ’s performance is brilliant and original and really entertaining, the souls all have very relatable challenges…and even though it’d be easy to make this sort of story a gloomy, regret-based tale, the filmmakers went the other direction and turned it into a narrative that promotes hope and love and carpe-ing the freaking diem.

Full disclosure: I cried several times during this movie.

Without giving you a complete play-by-play of the film, let me just say that it’s worth tracking down by any means necessary and giving yourself the kick in the ass you need to stop taking the positive people and things in your life for granted. Or if you’re the exceptional sort of person who’s taken exactly zero things in your life for granted, then this movie is just a really good story that is better than most of what Hollywood releases nowadays, despite being older than the entire US gymnastics team.

Oh yeah, Elizabeth Shue is also in this movie, if that does anything for you (it didn’t for me).

Heart & Souls. Get into it. And then write 1993 a thank you letter for making such an awesome cinematic contribution to your life.

Play on,

What four B-list actors would you want to follow you around for 30 years? Leave your answer in the comments section! And if you want more to read, check out last month’s Ten for Ten or Twenty for Twenty!

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