Movie rule #55485 - if your film has the word "magic" in the title, make sure there is "magic" in the movie.
That's the biggest problem with "The Magic Of Belle Isle," it's just missing IT. Everything else is there, but it just doesn't feel like anything special.
Morgan Freeman is Monte Wildhorn, a wheelchair-bound, drunkard author. The film opens with Monte being driven through the small town he will call home over the summer, and what promise! There is a contained fire raging so strong, it is showering the town in ashes. Older neighbors are outdoors playing basketball. The attractive female next door is on the roof spraying her home with water.
Yet the movie never really becomes anything different. It's about an out-of-place crank moving to a small town where he encounters charming locals who will remind him about the greater things in life. Along the way, everybody learns an emotional lesson, with inoffensive soft guitar leading the audience right into its path.
Freeman does his best as the "whimsical saying ready to fire" Monte. He's constantly set up, busting out zingers like "God confided in me he's an atheist" at a moment's notice. Or things like telling the lady next door (she's played by Virginia Madsen, who really exists only to be the lady next door) she has "a face that gives the moonlight something worth shining on."
Director Rob Reiner never creates an atmosphere where we can believe this stuff actually works. Imagine AS GOOD AS IT GETS where everybody just melts for Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall. THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE needs somebody to tell Monte that their knees start knocking every time he turns on the charm.
Whenever I'm watching a movie with a main character who is an old, cranky jerk - I find the first 15 minutes most crucial. In those initial moments, I find myself making a decision on whether or not I care to see this character change. In some ways, he has to charm me enough to make the movie worth watching.
Freeman is just the actor to do that. He has this sincere quality to him, his face alone can tell a story. But the movie is so over-edited at the start. The pacing never lets us settle in with the character, so we just rush from backstory to backstory.
THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE needs more time to breathe and let the emotions build. It feels rushed and just never comes together, never really heading anywhere all that interesting.
Kind of like this review.
THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE earns a Leshock Value of $5 out of a possible $10.
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