The Magic of Belle Isle: movie review

( PG ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Not even Morgan Freeman can rescue this film from soppiness.

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
'Magic of Belle Isle' star Morgan Freeman (l.) is held back in the film, and actress Virginia Madsen (r.) is portrayed in varying shades of blandness.

When Morgan Freeman is in a movie, you may feel that’s reason enough to see it. That’s certainly true of Rob Reiner’s “Magic of Belle Isle,” a film that has little else to recommend it.

Freeman plays widower Monte Wildhorn, a writer of popular Western novels who has fallen into alcoholic hard times. Dog-sitting at a lakeside cabin for the summer, he finds himself ensconced next to a single mother (Virginia Madsen) and her three young daughters, one of whom (Emma Fuhrmann) attaches herself to Monte as a kind of creative writing mentor.

Monte, who has given up his trade, spends much of the movie grousing. Of course, we are made to understand that underneath that gruff exterior is a softie. It’s to Freeman’s credit that he manages to make this soppiness work without devolving into easy sentimentality.

Too bad Reiner didn’t follow his example. Almost every scene is pitched for dewy sympathy. Madsen, a strong actress who might have matched Freeman, is portrayed in varying shades of blandness. Even Freeman, good as his is, is held back here. His rock bottom isn’t very rocky, and far from bottomless. Grade: C (Rated PG for mild thematic elements and language.)

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