Sure, “The Magic of Belle Isle,” a heart-tugging story about imagination and the calming effects of a summer retreat, is a bit sappy, and a suggested romance a bit misguided, but it’s Morgan Freeman doing his best crusty Morgan Freeman — and I will watch that all day long.
Freeman stars as Monte Wildhorn, a no-nonsense famous Western novelist who has lost the love of his life and, with her, his enthusiasm for the written word.
Dragged reluctantly to a lakeside cabin and left there by a nephew, Monte proceeds to dive headfirst into several bottles of whiskey, hoping the end will come sooner rather than later.
Monte’s been wheelchair-bound for years and has lost the use of his left arm. In real life, Freeman suffered a serious injury to his left arm in a car accident in 2008. It’s still partially numb to this day and he treats it gingerly. He’ll have no trouble adapting to this role.
Next door is a soon-to-be divorcee, Mrs. O’Neil (Virginia Madsen), and her three young daughters, teenage Willow (Madeline Carroll), 9-year-old Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) and 6-year-old Flora (Nicolette Pierini).
The precocious Finn is the first to approach the cranky old writer. She wants to know what it takes to be a novelist. He eventually tells her it has something to do with seeing things that aren’t there.
Over the next few weeks, Monte will warm up to the family and vice versa (although his growing affection for Mrs. O’Neil feels forced).
There will be many humorous moments, along with a few rough patches, but it’s a simple summer adventure worth seeing mainly because it’s just so darned adorable.
It has a bit of language that feels out of place, but the rest is squeaky clean, well-intended and, of course, well-acted.
The film won’t win any awards, but it could win over a few hearts.