With graceless melodramatist Rob Reiner at the helm, it's predictably ironic that The Magic of Belle Isle champions the unparalleled power of imagination while displaying absolutely none of its own. Reiner's latest schmaltzfest features his Bucket List star Morgan Freeman as Monte, a surly, wheelchair-bound cowboy-novel author who's inexplicably forced by his nephew (Kenan Thompson) to spend the summer in idyllic Belle Isle. There, he slowly learns to stop drinking away grief over his dead wife, embrace life, and resume his long-dormant writing through both his relationship with a divorcée neighbor (Virginia Madsen), with whom he shares unbelievable romantic sparks, and her three daughters, most specifically, Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann), who employs Monte as her creative-fiction mentor. Monte's spiritual rebirth also cheesily involves a friendship with a bunny-hopping, mentally handicapped man-child (Ash Christian), as well as a testy bond with a crotch-licking dog—peripheral threads that just further the overarching atmosphere of bathos. It's a tale of preordained and formulaic uplift, and one that gives its likable lead—who's asked to be charmingly grumpy, a drunk and suicidal Luddite, a sagacious counselor, and a father figure—what seems like the ultimate all-in-one Morgan Freeman–trademarked role. Nick Schager
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