Heart & Souls
directed by Ron Underwood
(MCA/Universal, 1993)

When you're little and playing a game, and you can't comprehend you've lost, there's only one thing to yell: "Do over!" You take another turn, and you take your chances. Sometimes, when you're lucky, the outcome is a little more favorable. Too bad life really isn't always like that.

But what if "do overs" really existed? What if you could change something, follow through, make a better effort? And what if you could choose only one episode to try again? For four people killed in a trolley accident decades ago, Heart and Souls is their chance to remedy some unfinished business.

At the moment they died, a baby was born -- and their spirits became entangled with his. As young Thomas Reilly (Robert Downey Jr.) grows up, his ability to see these four people invisible to everyone else becomes troubling to his parents and teachers. So the four, Harrison Winslow (Charles Grodin), Penny Washington (Alfre Woodard), Julia (Kyra Sedgwick) and Milo Peck (Tom Sizemore), decide to remove themselves from Thomas' consciousness and watch him from afar.

Fast forward about 30 years, and Thomas is a hard-driving executive unable to commit to his girlfriend Anne (Elizabeth Shue). She's at the end of her rope and her patience. Thomas' four old friends see he's about to lose his love, and decide to reappear, to try to capture their old magic and help Thomas see the error of his ways. And, as they soon learn, Thomas also can help them: They were connected to Thomas because they're supposed to resolve something from their lives, through him, and move on in the afterlife. As you'd imagine, Thomas is less than enthralled with this idea.

Downey -- sober or addicted during the filming, we're not sure -- does a great job with Thomas' fight against his ghostly friends taking over his body, and taking over his emotions. When he's "on," as he is for Hearts and Souls, Downey is a great comedic actor. As he reluctantly agrees to the plan, he begins to warm to his role as the alter ego for his band of earthbound spirits.

There's Harrison, who was always too terrified of singing in public to make anything of his immense talent. Julia rebuffed her boyfriend, then thought better of it and was chasing after him when she was killed in the crash. Milo, a petty thief, desperately wants to return a sheet of stamps he stole from a child. And Penny, a dedicated mother, has spent decades worrying about the small children she left behind.

It's corny in places (OK, really corny), but in the hands of Downey the humor is never far from the surface. And, at the very least, this light comedy asks a pretty good question: What would your "do over" be?

[ by Jen Kopf ]



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