Release date: July 6, 2012 (ltd)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Screenplay by: Guy Thomas and Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Virginia Madsen, Madeline Carroll
Rating: PG

In an attempt to understand how onetime directorial genius Rob Reiner could have misplaced his brilliant talent, grinding out a series of disappointing, often sappy films since 1996, here’s some theories:

1. He’s been forced to spend a certain amount of time each month locked away in a Hallmark card store;

2. He was offed by his evil twin Bert, who was sure that he could do just as good a job; or

3. Mr. Reiner stopped working with strong screenwriters.

The third choice is probably closest to the truth (although the Hallmark theory has a certain allure). Other than 1994′s North, Reiner directed eight films between 1984 and 1995 that reflect a stunning success, due in no small part to the screenwriters: Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally), William Goldman (The Princess Bride), Stephen King (Stand By Me, Misery), Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The American President), and the triad of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap). The one exception was the lesser-known team of Jonathan Roberts & Steve Bloom (James and the Giant Peach), the writers of A Sure Thing.

But from 1996 on, Reiner’s films have resulted in some halting limps and other utter disasters. While no one gets it right all the time, the fact that Reiner has all but eschewed his prior talent and taste is simply jaw-dropping.

Which leads us to the lackluster The Magic of Belle Isle, written primarily by Guy Thomas (1980′s Wholly Moses), with additional credits to Reiner and Andrew Scheinman. (Note: Whenever producer Scheinman volunteers to help Reiner with writing duties, it’s a questionable help at best, i.e., North and Flipped.) This script is so poorly crafted, it trumps many of those that have eroded the Reiner legacy since ’96. And that’s saying something.

[For Kimberly Gadette’s full review and rating, please click here]

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