You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Magic of Belle Isle

Returning to the kind of kid-centric material with which he's been known to thrive, helmer Rob Reiner nevertheless seems uninspired by the material.

With: Morgan Freeman, Virginia Madsen, Madeline Carroll, Emma Fuhrmann, Nicolette Pierini, Kenan Thompson, Fred Willard, Ash Christian, Kevin Pollak.

Shaggily sentimental and a few spells short of enchantment, “The Magic of Belle Isle” rides almost solely on the charms of Morgan Freeman, who manages to conjure up considerable charisma as a grieving alcoholic author whose spiritual salvation arrives via a beautiful divorcee (Virginia Madsen) and her three adorable daughters. Returning to the kind of kid-centric material with which he’s been known to thrive, helmer Rob Reiner nevertheless seems uninspired by the material, and the results are well suited to VOD, where the film has been playing since June 1. A theatrical run kicks off July 1.

Acerbic widower Monte Wildhorn (Freeman) was once an acclaimed writer of Western fiction, but now sits in a wheelchair, nursing his regrets and expressing his bile with polysyllabic panache. He also sucks down sour-mash like a sink. Alcohol is a big part of this guy’s persona, but Freeman’s inherent dignity keeps him from playing the kind of pathetic drunkard Monte really ought to be. So right from the start — when Monte’s nephew Henry (the always wonderful Kenan Thompson) drops his uncle off at the lakeside cabin where he’s going to dogsit for the summer — the movie seems to be holding back.

Yes, Monte’s inebriated admonishments to the dog are amusing, and his overly articulate self-recriminations are droll. But the sense of desperation is lacking, mostly because “The Magic of Belle Isle” is intended to feel good, not necessarily real.

The pic’s tendency to strive for comfort over conflict is particularly unfortunate as regards Madsen’s Charlotte O’Neil and the young actresses who play her daughters: bored teenager Willow (Madeline Carroll), tomboyish Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) and little Flora (Nicolette Pierini). The girls’ father is MIA, and all three of them have their issues. But it’s Finn who finds her creative/emotional outlet through Monte, who grumpily agrees to be her mentor and help cultivate her budding imagination.

It’s a likable cast (Fred Willard delivers a characteristically wacky cameo), but at the same time, the only really passable acting occurs when Freeman is oncamera alone. This is due largely to the stiffness, contrived conflicts and recycled feel of Guy Thomas’ script, and Reiner’s seeming contentment with purely surface emotions.

The story here is, of course, a redemptive one. While there’s little sense of real romance between Monte and Charlotte (they call each other “Mr. Wildhorn” and “Mrs. O’Neil,” a device that grows precious over time), Monte responds to the love sent in his direction by the O’Neils, and he in turn helps the less fortunate. These include Carl (Ash Christian), the mentally impaired teenager who hops around like a bunny until Monte dubs him “Diego Santana, desperado,” and Carl stops being quite so annoying. It’s the kind of spiritually regenerative stuff that auds have seen a hundred times, and, at certain moments, it can be quite moving. The overall sense, however, is of a film that wants to be morally upright but isn’t above a little shameless manipulation.

Production values are fine, although a more fluid style of editing might have made the proceedings feel a little less formulaic.

The Magic of Belle Isle

Production: A Magnolia Pictures release and presentation of a Castle Rock Entertainment, Revelations Entertainment, Firebrand/Summer Magic production. Produced by Rob Reiner, Alan Greisman, Lori McCreary, Salli Newman, David Valdes. Executive producers, Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer, Jared Ian Goldman. Directed by Rob Reiner. Screenplay, Guy Thomas.

Crew: Camera (color), Reed Morano; editor, Dorian Harris; music, Marc Shaiman; production designer, Tom Lisowski; art director; Kevin Bird; set decorator, Sara Parks; costume designer, Shawn-Holly Cookson; sound (Dolby Digital), Jack Hutson; supervising sound editors, Darren Warkentin, Lon Bender; re-recording mixer, Chris Johnston; special effects supervisor, Steve Kirshoff; visual effects supervisor, Dan Schmidt; visual effects, Engine Room; stunt coordinator, Manny Siverio; casting, Susan Shopmaker. Reviewed on VOD, June 12, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 149 MIN.

With: With: Morgan Freeman, Virginia Madsen, Madeline Carroll, Emma Fuhrmann, Nicolette Pierini, Kenan Thompson, Fred Willard, Ash Christian, Kevin Pollak.

More Film

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy Remembers Steve Golin as 'A Warrior and a Mensch'

    It was a brutal process to get “Spotlight” made. The movie was dead at least three times before we shot it because of financing problems, studio problems, deadlines, actors’ availability and the time of year we could shoot. There were moments when Steve and I were just going at it. We’d have hilarious late-night correspondence. [...]

  • "A War Within"

    SF Studios Scoops International Sales to 'Grandpas,' 'A War Within' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SF Studios has scooped international sales rights to Santiago Requejo’s heartfelt comedy drama “Grandpas” and Kasper Torsting’s WWI-set Danish love drama “A War Within” in the run up to Cannes. Both films are third-party pickups. “Grandpas” is a high-profile Spanish movie starring Carlos Iglesias (“Crossing Borders”), Roberto Álvarez (“Talk to her”) and Ramón Barea (“Everybody [...]

  • 'Gemini Man' First Trailer Drops With

    Will Smith Faces Off Against Himself in Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Trailer

    Will Smith battles a familiar antagonist in the official trailer for Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” — himself. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media dropped dazzling new footage of the futuristic sci-fi drama, scored to a haunting version of “Forever Young,” that sees Smith playing an elite assassin. Things get tricky when he finds out the man [...]

  • Werner Herzog

    Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japanese Film 'Family Romance' (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales house Film Constellation has boarded Oscar-winning director Werner Herzog’s Japanese-language narrative film “Family Romance,” which will have its world premiere in the special screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Herzog, the movie was shot last spring and summer in Tokyo and Aomori, Japan, with non-professional actors (Yuichi Ishii, [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Box Office: Can It

    'Avengers: Endgame' Expected to Shatter Box Office Records

    “Avengers: Endgame” has its sights set on world domination. Disney and Marvel’s upcoming superhero epic should light the box office on fire when it launches this weekend, with the hopes of setting domestic, international, and global records. In North America alone, “Avengers: Endgame” is expected to earn between $250 million and $268 million in its [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' Compensation Jumps 48% to $36.1 Million

    Netflix chief Reed Hastings is being handsomely rewarded for calling the shots at the streaming giant. His compensation package, which is largely in the form of stock options, climbed 48% in 2018 to $36.1 million. That’s up from $24.4 million in the previous year. Hastings’ salary is a relatively modest $700,000, but his stock options [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content