Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen star in "The Magic Of Belle Isle," Rob Reiner's latest film, which deals with a wheelchair-bound, alcoholic ex-writer who might just find redemption one summer in a small town. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following review.
I really do wonder what happened to Rob Reiner. He was once a great director, having made such diverse gems as "This Is Spinal Tap," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Misery." But all those movies are over 20 years old. Since then, his films have been mediocre at best. His latest is something called "The Magic Of Belle Isle."
Morgan Freeman plays Monte Wildhorn. He was once a successful novelist but he has written anything in years. Now he's a wheelchair-bound alcoholic who's pining away for his wife who passed away.
His nephew, played by SNL's Keenan Thompson, sets him up in a cottage for the summer in an idyllic community called Belle Isle. It's there that he finds redemption through a pretty neighbor, played by Virginia Madsen and her three kids.
It's hokey, predictable and very corny and the whole thing just doesn't really ring true. The script, its characters and the town itself are something out of a Norman Rockwell painting combined with a heavy dose of Andy Griffith's Mayberry.
There's never any doubt that the crusty, bitter old man, played by Freeman, will eventually have his heart melted by Madsen's children, who he comes to know. They, for some unknown reason, seem to be fascinated by him, instead of with cellphones, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other modern-day technological diversions that most kids occupy their time with.
There are restrained romantic sparks between Madsen and Freeman and these two great actors do their best with the lousy material. If there's anything worth watching in the film, it's these two. But they really can't rise above the syrupy script. Reiner's choice of material here is poor and he lends nothing much to the proceedings.
I liked the way the movie is photographed, but overall it's a Hallmark movie. If it were set in the 1950s or even made during that decade, it would have made more sense. But even then, this wouldn't be exactly be riveting or even mildly engaging on any level.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 1.5 Apples