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Morgan Freeman is great in feel-good family film

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 2:55 p.m. MDT

Emma Fuhrmann and Morgan Freeman in "The Magic of Belle Isle."

Magnolia Pictures

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A new family film worth checking out leads these movies arriving on DVD this week.

“The Magic of Belle Isle” (Magnolia/Blu-ray, 2012, PG, $29.98, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). In terms of plot, you’ll know in the first five minutes where this one is going. There are no surprises or twists, and although secrets are revealed, they aren’t especially deep or terribly dark. But, as they say, it’s not so much where the story goes as the journey itself.

And Morgan Freeman, as an alcoholic former Old West novelist who speaks in literate and witty phrases, is the real “magic” in this movie. As Monte Wildhorn, he reluctantly moves into a ramshackle house in a small New England town to spend the summer dog-sitting and wallowing in his sorrows. But, as if you didn’t know, fate has something else in mind as he is charmed by the ladies next door, a middle-aged divorcee (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters, in particular a 9-year-old aspiring writer (Emma Fuhrmann).

That they will awaken the writer within is a given, and that he will help them get through a rough patch is also predictable. And the film could do without such cheap-joke clichés as a cursing clown and a dog licking himself repeatedly. But the performances are all first-rate, and the humor and heart are compelling. And Freeman is obviously enjoying this rare lead role, ably supported by Madsen, young Fuhrmann and everyone else. (Also on DVD, $26.98.)

“For One Night” (Lifetime, 2008, not rated, $14.95). Raven-Symone acquits herself nicely stepping away from comedy for this drama of a teenager attempting to integrate the senior prom of her Southern high school. As hard as it is to believe that segregated proms could still exist in the 21st century, this one is based on a true story.

“Katy Perry: The Movie: Part of Me” (Paramount/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012, PG, two discs, $39.99, featurette). Ingratiating backstage documentary may not win over many new fans but it will definitely please those who already love Perry and her music. (Also on three-disc 3D Combo, $54.99, and single-disc DVD, $29.98.)

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta!” (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012, G, two discs, $44.99, featurette, music video). Papi (voiced by George Lopez) and family move into a posh doggy hotel in this comedy for children. (Also on two-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo, $39.99, and single-disc DVD, $29.99.)

“Salvation Boulevard” (Sony, 2012; R for language, violence, drugs, sex; $26.99). Lampoon of fundamentalism and mega-churches has laconic follower Greg Kinnear framed for murder by his powerful pastor (Pierce Brosnan). Co-stars include Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly and Marisa Tomei.

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: 2 Complete Mini-Series” (Mill Creek, 1991/1992, not rated, two discs, $9.98, four episodes). Christopher Lee as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Dr. Watson are perfectly suited to their roles in these pair of British two-part miniseries, “Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady” and “Incident at Victoria Falls.” Both films suffer from overlength but are nonetheless well played, lavishly produced and should please fans. Co-stars include Morgan Fairchild, Jenny Seagrove and Richard Todd.

“The Lost World: Double Feature” (Mill Creek, 1992, not rated, $9.98, two movies). “The Lost World” and “Return to the Lost World” are straight-to-video adaptations of the Arthur Conan Doyle tale of rival scientists (John Rhys-Davies, David Warner) joining forces when they discover a remote jungle with prehistoric creatures. “Jurassic Park” it ain’t, but Rhys-Davies and Warner lend some heft, along with a pre-“Will & Grace” Eric McCormack.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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