The Magic Of Belle Isle—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
July 5, 2012 11:43 PM
7 Comments
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Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Morgan Freeman’s presence generally makes any film worth seeing, and this is no exception. The fact that The Magic of Belle Isle also offers a benign, family-friendly alternative to harsher summer fare is icing on the cake.

That may not be everyone’s view of the film, which wears its heart on its sleeve and could be accused of sentimentality, but if you admire Freeman, and don’t mind surrendering to some cute little girls (who also win his heart in the course of the story), you’ll come away with a smile on your face.

Freeman plays a misanthropic author, confined to a wheelchair, who doesn’t write any more and is content to spend his days drinking. Then his nephew arranges for him to house-sit in a seasonal island community where the girls next door—especially a precocious 9-year-old—intrude upon his privacy, along with their mother (Virginia Madsen). Cantankerous as he may be, he is also a gentleman, and can’t resist the overtures of a child whose interest in stories stirs his long-dormant imagination. He also enjoys the company of a beautiful woman who plays Beethoven on the piano at night.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
If this sounds cloying, let me assure you that it doesn’t play that way. Freeman seems to relish the role of a man who revels in his own erudition, and director Rob Reiner practices restraint at every turn. Marc Shaiman, who’s worked on most of Reiner’s films, shows similar tastefulness in his lovely score, which features the composer on piano.

The popularity of dark, edgy movies makes it difficult to promote a film that’s sweet, but that’s the best word to describe The Magic of Belle Isle, which has been available for the past month on Video on Demand. However you manage to see it, if you’re a Morgan Freeman fan you’ll be glad you did. 

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7 Comments

  • Greg | December 8, 2012 1:06 AMReply

    Hadn't heard of it but decided to watch because I am a fan of Morgan Freeman. Wow! Lovely, gentle and genteel. I was stunned to see it only made $100,000 at the box office.

    It does harken back to a simpler time and maybe has a hard time being noticed among all the CGI and explosions that most movies have. While I love those too, sometimes a good story with great character interaction is a welcome respite from all the noise. Definitely worth a watch!

  • Norma Newman | September 21, 2012 11:56 PMReply

    I had heard about this film and was looking forward to seeing it. It seems as if it was never distributed in Florida. So disappointed.

  • cjean | August 4, 2012 8:16 PMReply

    "what's he screaming at?" ....."life"

    I wouldnt doubt if the guy who made this film liked "On Golden Pond" (great film). BUT, even though this is good family stuff, i'd rather show my family an old copy of Hepburn and "the loons norman!" :)

  • Bobbi Purvis | July 22, 2012 6:33 PMReply

    This is a great family movie; I enjoyed it immensely as I love anything Morgan Freeman plays in as I consider him one of the greatest actors of our time.

  • mike schlesinger | July 15, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    Jeez, ten years ago a Rob Reiner film with Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen would've been a major Warner Bros. release. Now it's just a VOD with a perfunctory Magnolia-quickie arthouse dump. Yet another back of the hand to over-40s who want to see pictures that don't insult their intelligence.

  • Norm | July 7, 2012 5:01 AMReply

    See it...? I haven't even heard of it...If they would advertise it on the Science Channel, it would have gotten more play...

  • Jeffrey | July 6, 2012 12:08 AMReply

    I'm a huge Freeman fan and see almost everything he's in. I plan on seeing this very soon. Plus, I always enjoy watching a talented actress like Virginia Madsen. She always contributes well.

    On a side note, I'd love to get Mr. Maltin's take on "Savages", even if this film is much better.

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