(director/writer: Rob Reiner; screenwriter: Guy Thomas; cinematographer: Reed Morano; editor: Dorian Harris; music: Marc Shaiman; cast: Morgan Freeman (Monte Wildhorn), Virginia Madsen (Charlotte O’Neil), Madeline Carroll (Willow O’Neil), Emma Fuhrmann (Finnegan O’Neil), Nicolette Pierini (Flora O’Neil), Kenan Thompson (Henry), Fred Willard (Al Kaiser), Kevin Pollak (Joe Viola), Ash Christian (Carl Loop), Jessica Hecht (Karen Loop), Lucas Rooney (Clown), Boyd Holbrook (Luke Ford), Debargo Sanyal (Mahmoud); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Rob Reiner/Alan Greisman/Lori McCreary/Salli Newman/David Valdes; Magnolia Pictures; 2012)


Uninspiring sentimental inspirational pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Uninspiring sentimental inspirational pic, filled with cliches and a dull unimaginative drama about a crippled writer, no longer working, trying to regain his life spark by restoring his imagination, and who in a predictable way succeeds. Director Rob Reiner (“This is Spinal Tap”/”The Bucket List”/”Stand By Me”)reunites with the 75-year-old star Morgan Freeman for another schmaltzy feelings pic. Reiner co-writes this hard to digest tripe withGuy Thomas. The movie was shot in beautiful Greenwood Lake, N.Y. (which in the film goes by the name Belle Isle). It’s an idyllic lakeside community in which nearby Manhattan residents use as a quiet upstate summer vacation spot.

Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) is a once famous elderly writer of western novels, who is wheelchair-bound, a curmudgeon, an alcoholic, a sufferer from writer’s block, embittered over a drunk motorist years ago running him down and killing his promising baseball career, and hasn’t stop grieving over the loss of his loyal ideal wife six years ago. The author has stopped writing his popular award winning Jubal western books since his wife’s death. To get him to write again, his friendly concerned nephew Henry (Kenan Thompson) arranges for him to live in a humble serene Belle Isle cabin if he watches the absent owner’s dog. The self-pitying Monte is cheered up by his lively, maternal, kind-hearted and brilliant Beethoven playing pianist next door neighbor, the sexy middle-aged divorcee Charlotte O’Neil (Madsen). The single mom’s three sweet young daughters-the curious seven-year-old Flora (Nicolette Pierini), the precocious 9-year-old aspiring writer Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) and bored but good-natured teenager Willow (Madeline Carroll)-take the grumpy man into their hearts and their lives become entangled.

The gentlemanly writer has a schoolboy crush on the redhead hottie Charlotte, and she becomes his muse and part of his dreams. The middle daughter is mentored by him on how to use her imagination when writing, and she in her innocent way inspires him to write again. While the little girl gets him to write bedtime elephant stories for her, that pleases both her and her mom. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, Monte develops a friendship with the bunny hopping instead of walking neighbor’s mentally retarded teenage son (Ash Christian) and he becomes the lonely kid’s best friend. Comedy, or what goes for comedy, has Monte in cheeky conversations with the dog and jokes are constructed around the dog’s habit of licking his balls at appropriate points of the conversation.

To Freeman’s credit he gives his shamelessly idolized part at least a smidgeon of true feelings, but I felt uncomfortable taking in so much goo in such a disposable pic.