Morgan Freeman in "The Magic of Belle Isle" (Courtesy of...

Morgan Freeman in "The Magic of Belle Isle" (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures) Credit: Morgan Freeman in "The Magic of Belle Isle" (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

The Magic of Belle Isle
2.5 stars
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen
Rated PG

"The Magic of Belle Isle," directed by Rob Reiner, is a warm nostalgia piece centered on a trio of good-hearted kids, their pretty mom and the lovable crank next door. Whether it clicks with its intended audience in this age of smartphones, tablets and video games is another story.

Morgan Freeman plays once-famous author Monte Wildhorn, who is now a lonely paralyzed alcoholic. For the summer, Monte takes up residence in a quiet home on rural Belle Isle seeking to drown his sorrows in peace and quiet. But the self-destructive quest is irrevocably altered by his neighbors: divorcee Mrs. O'Neil (Virginia Madsen) and her young daughters.

Despite its modern-day setting, "Belle Isle" takes place in a world where kids love to read, tell stories and seek adventures outdoors, while their mysterious neighbor helpfully dispenses bromides disguised as wisdom. There's nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned idealism, manifest in the cinematic representation of Reiner's pining for the olden days before all that technology mumbo jumbo destroyed our collective imagination.

If "Belle Isle" took place in the mid-20th Century, the sentimental spirit might have come across as a welcome throwback to simpler times. But in 2012 it represents such a profound divorce from reality that the whole enterprise falls apart. 

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