The Magic of Belle Isle Movie Poster Image

The Magic of Belle Isle

Family drama has syrupy plot but fabulous performances.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The Magic of Belle Isle is about the transformational power of friendship and how it's possible to make life-changing connections with people who are generations older/younger than you. It's also a story about creativity and how to work through personal difficulties.

Positive role models

Finn and Monte have a sweet inter-generational friendship that helps them both become more creative. Despite his many flaws, Monte's relationship with the girls (he isn't condescending with them) is just what they need as they process their parents' divorce. Charlotte is a good mother who's doing her best to soften the blow of her marital breakup.


Monte wields a gun at a clown (albeit comically). He shoots it in the air, but no one is hurt.


Monte begins to fancy the lovely (and much younger) Charlotte, and he dreams of them waltzing in the moonlight and kissing. Later on she does kiss him briefly. A few suggestive comments.


A couple of uses of "s--t," as well as "bitch" (but in its literal meaning as a female dog), "ass," "damn," "hell," and the exclamation "Jesus H. Christ." Monte makes some abrasive comments, like "God told me to be an atheist." Finn calls Monte a "no-good drunk."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

It's a major plot point that Monte is an alcoholic, although it's discussed more than it's shown. He buys a lot of Scotch and is shown with empty bottles and glasses, but he tends to act tipsy rather than really, really drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Magic of Belle Isle is a drama about the inter-generational friendship between an old alcoholic writer and the three young sisters who live next door. Although the movie is rated PG, director Rob Reiner explores some heavy themes, like alcoholism, grief, divorce, and disability. There's also some strong-for-the-rating language ("s--t," "ass," "damn," "Jesus H. Christ" said a couple of times each), and a couple of quick kisses (one is in a dream). The bond that forms between the crotchety author (Morgan Freeman) and the girls may remind younger viewers that seniors have lived full, rich lives and still have something to say.

What's the story?

Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) is a bitter old author of once-popular Western novels. Wheelchair bound and an alcoholic, Monte moves into his nephew's rustic lake house for the summer -- right next door to Charlotte (Virginia Madsen), a soon-to-be-divorced mom, and her three daughters: teenager Willow (Madeline Carroll), 9-year-old tomboy Finn (Emma Fuhrmann), and little sis Flora (Nicolette Pierini). As Finn -- and the rest of the town -- gets to know Monte, his crustiness softens, and he learns to make friends for the first time in a long while. Through their unlikely friendship, Finn and Monte dare each other to dream and write and never give up.

Is it any good?


Anyone who can't stand feel-good, sentimental family films should stay far, far away from THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE. This is the sort of sugary-sweet drama that would be at home on the Hallmark Channel. Freeman is fabulous, and he's pitch-perfect spouting off Monte's saltier comments -- like his reply to his nephew (Kenan Thompson) about why he doesn't write anymore: "Drinking is a demanding profession, and I can’t hold two jobs at once." It's rare to see Freeman in a true leading role, and he doesn't disappoint because he's just that good. There's a reason so many documentaries and commercials pay him to narrate: His voice is an amazing blend of gravitas and comfort.

Madsen is also in her element as the beautiful mother next door trying to exorcise her marital problems in the idyllic summer retreat of her youth. While her daughters each have their issues, Monte becomes a mentor and friend to all of them, particularly aspiring writer Finn. Young Fuhrmann holds her own in her many scenes with Freeman. Although Reiner allows the movie to dive too far into the pool of sentimentality, there's nothing wrong with a corny but lovable drama every once in a while. And if kids learn that the AARP crowd has a lot to offer them, even better.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the theme of aging. Most movies portray the elderly in supporting roles as grandparents or neighbors, but in The Magic of Belle Isle, the aged author is the main character. How do you feel when you see older people in leading roles?

  • How is alcoholism portrayed in the movie? What are Monte's reasons for drinking? How does his drinking get in the way of his creativity?

  • What other movies address the relationship between seniors and kids? Talk about elderly folks you know who might be cool to talk to, learn from, and hang out with more often.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 6, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:September 18, 2012
Cast:Emma Fuhrmann, Morgan Freeman, Virginia Madsen
Director:Rob Reiner
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild thematic elements and language including some suggestive comments

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bydirectioner2121 April 1, 2014

Great Movie! :)

I think that it's a great movie with positive messages and great role models. The Magic of Belle Isle is a movie that talks about reaching your goals and helping other people. Anyways, I enjoyed this movie and loved it! :)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Educator and Parent Written byMoviesCanBFun February 15, 2013

Hard to pass on this one. Sweet family movie with caution.

Okay, This movie is one that has a great message, the parent in it shows a great role model for her children and the ones watching and for the parents watching. Morgan comes in with the ability to help the middle child find her imagination and gives him his want to live again. The children seem to have the respect for their parent. However, the mother is going through a divorce (The "ex" husband never appears. This leaves room for the mom to show interest in Monty (Mr. Wildhorn) and never making it inappropriate to show mom going on with her life.) and there is some frustration shown when he chooses not to be there for the children. But she tries not to put her troubles on the children. The unfortunate items in the movie are Morgan Freeman's drinking (only seen as a sleepy drunk one time and at others he just seems tired) not a whole lot of consumption but he does show how an alcoholic will even drink the drop left from the bottle in the garbage can, there is some foul language (which went over my child's head, Pheww) some that is quite harsh. But beyond that this is a really great feel good movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking