The Magic of Bell Island is carried by a command performance from Morgan Freeman. As directed by Rob Reiner the story unwinds as a family friendly film should. It’s about bonding, it’s about home, and it’s about taking stock of your life.

Reiner veers the story away from the mawkish and the movie under other less capable hands could certainly have been a Lifetime cable tale about values. There’s an underlying seriousness to Freeman’s situation that’s not undermined by Belle Island’s comic tone. Freeman, bound to a wheelchair, plays a disillusioned writer more into the booze than the typewriter. Moving into a waterfront home Freeman makes friends with the single mother (Virginia Madsen) and her daughters who live next door. The houses share a common dog. Fred Willard also pops up.

The Magic of Belle Island has a leisurely feel and a calm atmosphere that’s routinely overturned when Freeman goes into overdrive. At times his drunken rants are defused by Madsen’s daughters, who offer a kind of balance to the nature of the island setting. Other times Freeman’s anger is justified like when he provides frontier justice to a party clown who tries to berate the children. Your time spent on Belle Island will recharge your sense of worth. The Magic of Belle Island plays exclusively at the Sundance Cinemas Houston.

— Michael Bergeron