America's Heart and Soul

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
America's Heart and Soul Movie Poster Image
A big, beautiful love letter to America.
  • PG
  • 2004
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Superb depiction of America's diversity including minorities and disabled.

Violence & Scariness

Some moments of peril and emotion.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reference to alcoholism.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has a reference to alcoholism and loss and some moments of peril and emotion.

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What's the story?

Over the years, as he traveled the country to film stock footage for his company, Louis Schwartzberg met people and heard stories he wanted to put on screen. Stories and people who represent the heart and soul of America, such as a cowboy and his horse. A black lady singing gospel, with parishioners in fearsomely elegant hats nodding along. A Native American who saves a wounded eagle. A blind mountain climber. A dairy farmer who moonlights in community theater, currently starring in a musical version of Dracula. A guy who works in a car wash and moonlights in a rock band with his truck driver brother. The ex-convict who became captain of America's Olympic boxing team. Steelworkers worried about losing jobs overseas. And a guy who blows stuff up just for the fun of it. Welcome to America.

Is it any good?

AMERICA'S HEART AND SOUL is a big, beautiful love letter to America from film-maker Louis Schwartzberg. If Norman Rockwell made a movie, this would be it. If "America the Beautiful" was a movie, this would be it. If America had a home movie, this would be it. And if we ever needed a reminder of what can be proud of, what we aspire to, what we stand for -- this is it. The photography is stunning, the camera swooping over glorious vistas of trees and mountains and zooming in on the details of a car covered with bobbleheads or the indoor slide in the home built by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's.

The movie does not pretend to be comprehensive. It's just a kaleidoscope of images and impressions that come back to some basic themes, the ones that really are at the heart and soul of America: family, music, sports, freedom, laughter, passion for expressing ourselves, community, work, passion for our dreams, food, and...vehicles. Each of the stories is touching, funny, thrilling, inspiring, or all of the above at the same time. Yes, it's corny, but corny isn't necessarily less smart than cynicism. And sometimes we need a little corn to remind us that even in a troubling and complicated time, we can still feel proud of our shared dream of freedom and freedom to dream. At a moment when America is finding it hard to remember a reason to feel proud, this movie is a powerful reminder. It's one that parents should share with children to inspire them to think about their own stories and their own dreams.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which of the people in it they would most like to meet. What do you think about the distinction between a laborer, a craftsman, and an artist? Many of the people in the movie talked about passing on what they had learned. How do you do that in your family?

Movie details

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