Cold Souls

  • Review Date: August 19, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Fanciful tale is fun for grownups; won't appeal to kids.
  • Review Date: August 19, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's main take-away is that it's more important to want what you have rather than to have what you want. That said, the folks behind the soul-transplant business (which represents any "cool" cutting-edge new technology) go about their work with little understanding of its potential impact and danger.

Positive role models

The hero is portrayed as honest, loyal, and smart, though somewhat overly self-involved. One businessman is shown to be corrupt, while another is shown to be naive and corruptible. One soul-trafficking character evolves from an unconscious self-promoter to someone who sees the error of her ways and takes responsibility for her actions.

Violence

A dog bares its teeth at the main character.

Sex

A Life Drawing class features nude female models in artistic poses; there's also a brief glance at a female nude poster. Mild cuddling between husband and wife in bed.

Language

Intermittent cursing includes "for Christ's sake," "for God's sake," "schmuck," "hell," "crap," and one "what the f--k?"

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some characters smoke (particularly during scenes set in Russia). The main character also pours himself one stiff drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this indie comedy about the soul transplant business is imaginative, it probably won't have much appeal for kids or young teens. It's grown-up material, and the humor comes from taking our culture's incessant soul-searching and self-involvement to a new level of absurdity. Expect some swearing (mostly mild, though there's one "what the f--k?") and smoking. There are also two scenes with brief female nudity (models in a drawing class and a poster designed to elicit a humorous response).

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

Actor Paul Giamatti (Paul Giamatti) is suffering greatly as he rehearses for a Chekhov play -- he can't separate himself from the unhappy character he's playing. So when he reads a magazine article about the innovative process of safe "soul removal and storage," he's intrigued. Friendly Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn) and his beaming assistant (Lauren Ambrose) facilitate the transplant with ease. Paul is initially elated and relieved -- but it isn't long before he realizes that both his acting and his marriage to Claire (Emily Watson) are less than stellar without an intact soul. Unfortunately, his soul is no longer in Flintstein's vault: It's been stolen by a Russian black marketeer. Soon, hapless Russian "soul mule" (Dina Korzun) becomes Paul's ally in the quest for his soul's return.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The clever script and smooth direction by first-time writer/director Sophie Barthes -- as well as terrific performances, especially by Giamatti in a role that feels like it was tailor-made for his Everyman look and quirky personality -- keep this surreal comedy grounded in reality. There's not a moment of tongue-in-cheek behavior or campy, "knowing" dialogue.

It's a stretch to imagine that souls can be removed, transplanted, or stored -- and an even bigger stretch to make the premise funny and last for nearly two hours. Barthes is mostly successful. She spends just enough time with the newly soulless Giamatti -- and then with Giamatti owning the interim soul of someone even more depressed than he was -- to keep the film from exhausting the narrative possibilities. The rest of the movie is spent in a farcical adventure in St. Petersburg, Russia, during which Giamatti learns a lesson that the audience knew from the beginning. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it means to "suspend your disbelief." How do the filmmakers make the idea of transplanting souls seem not only possible but ordinary? Did having Paul Giamatti go by his real name make it more believable?

  • What is the movie saying about "technology for technology's sake"? Can you think of any real-life technologies that seem as far-fetched as the soul-transplant business?

  • Why is the visual of a soul as a chickpea or garbanzo bean funny? Since

  • the "soul" is usually considered to have enormous importance,

  • do you think the fact that it was so tiny underlined the movie's ironic tone?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 7, 2009
DVD release date:March 2, 2010
Cast:Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, Paul Giamatti
Director:Sophie Barthes
Studio:Samuel Goldwyn Company
Genre:Comedy
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:nudity and brief strong language

This review of Cold Souls was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byleahxo August 15, 2011
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

A Little Bland.

Great concept, great main actor, very slow movie.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much sex

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