I can recall the great times of Rob Reiner. Taking on important, stylishly intelligent films like A Few Good Men (1992) or capturing the heart of innocence in Stand by Me (1986), Reiner was and probably still is a very capable director. Unfortunately in his newest effort, The Magic of Belle Isle, Reiner saddles down a road of melodrama and predictability and plateaus on the land of contrary and bland nature.
The film stars Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman as Monte Wildhorn, a paralyzed old drunk who spends the summer at a lakeside cabin who has lost the will to write. He befriends a recently divorced woman Charlotte (Academy Award Nominee Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters who’s recent move from Manhattan leaves them lost in a land of the unknown. All these people grow to learn from one another and possibly co-exist in what feels like the worst moments of their current lives.
Freeman enthusiasts will likely love him in any role he takes on however, Freeman’s natural ability to uplift the most inexperienced writer’s words doesn’t save him here. Freeman never gets the plane off the ground because the film has no gas to move forward. All the elements of this film have been seen countless times, executed poorly, and shed no new fresh or interesting characters for the viewer to engage. Co-writer Guy Thomas and Reiner indulge themselves in an old man’s fantasy of getting a second chance at love with a woman who is decades younger. It comes off creepy, unrealistic, and seemingly pointless from moment one. There isn’t even an action point that kicks it up a gear through it’s near two-hour watch.
Madsen, who gave us one of the best career-comeback performances in Alexander Payne’s Sideways in 2004, is a wasted cinematic goddess here with no motivation or developed characterization. She lies on the floor of the film as uninspired line and story steps over her and doesn’t even notice what the beautiful marking could be capable of doing. The three young child performers are there to offer the “cutesy” and “awe shucks” feelings from the audience but even that is forgettable. The film lacks any magic, imagination, or creativity. It’s cookie cutter with no yeast or flavor.
All technical merits are coy and never takes any chances to explore any new realms of filmmaking. All we’re left with is an uneven story that could have landed on “Best of Straight-to-DVD” shelves or the $1 bin at your local Walmart for Grandma to find.