Ah, to go back a few weeks and be able to retitle Rob Reiner’s latest melodrama “Magic Mike Of Belle Isle.” Wouldn’t help the box office, but it would be funny. Channing Tatum playing a furniture designer, once a male stripper, now in his elderly years, burnishing his reputation as a major designer on furniture… In “The Magic Of Belle Isle,” Reiner’s flat adaptation of Guy Thomas’ original script, Morgan Freeman plays Monte Wildhorn, an elderly drunk who buys sour mash in bulk, once a baseball player, then a productive novelist, now a lost soul in a wheelchair who retreats to the woods (shot upstate from New York City) to try to rekindle the writerly muse. A likeably mature Virginia Madsen plays Charlotte, the kindly, toothsome, somewhat younger single mom next door. Enter the O’Neil daughters: Willow, Finnegan and Flora, three young daughters streaming with l’esprit de vie. Synopsizable plot and relentless wordy banter ensues. Reiner’s most recent movie, “Flipped” seemed to have stirred the veteran director in a way “Belle Isle” does not: except for the stream of grumbles intoned by Freeman, there’s little vigor here. It’s less feel-good than feel-“meh,” a sentimental, less-lived in idyll of Mayberry best. A better old-and-young souls-astir on an isolated island movie that’s a feel-great number: “Moonrise Kingdom.” With Madeline Carroll, Kenan Thompson, Fred Willard, Ash Christian, Kevin Pollak and a ball-licking dog. 109m. (Ray Pride)
“The Magic Of Belle Isle” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.