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  The Bucket List

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Sean Hayes, Rob Morrow
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Produced by: Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Alan Greisman, Rob Reiner
Written by: Justin Zackham
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures


     Rob Reiner’s The Bucket List feels like a stunningly incomplete motion picture. Its hollow assembly elicits the impression that once Reiner and screenwriter Justin Zackham knew they had crafted a creative premise and secured the reliable Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson for the lead roles, they went on autopilot. This wasn’t actually the case—Reiner spent many months acquiring financing for this film as if it were a passion-project, persuaded an uneasy Freeman to take on his role, and used Freeman’s involvement to prompt Nicholson to hop onboard—but it just as easily could’ve been. As it is, The Bucket List is totally unremarkable and displays no signs of the hard-work indicated by its long history in pre-production. In fact, the movie isn’t much better than any other that Reiner has made during the last ten years, all of which have achieved throwaway-status in time.

     Freeman’s Carter Chambers and Nicholson’s Edward Cole are two mismatched hospital-roommates who are dying of cancer. Despite being totally opposite—Carter a hardworking family-man and Edward a lonesome business-tycoon—they form an understanding of each other as they engage in small-talk between treatments. One day, Edward stumbles upon a so-called “Bucket List” that Carter has composed at the advice of his freshman college philosophy professor, in which he lists all of the things he would like to do before he dies. Edward decides that there’s no reason that they both shouldn’t put the list into action, and adds a few lines to it. Because Edward is rich beyond belief, the two can do virtually whatever they want together. The process of carrying out the list prompts the men to form a sympathetic bond with each other and to reflect on their long lives. It also results in trouble at Home for Carter, whose wife believes Edward, a near-stranger, has stolen him away from her.

     Sure: the basic-idea behind The Bucket List is congenial and the stars are perfect for the roles. But what does this matter when one considers that the film exploits these advantages to concoct a thoroughly ordinary product? The Bucket List has gives its inventive characters nothing original to do, leaving its gifted lead actors to wander around aimlessly. Carter and Edward carry out ridiculously cliché and sappy excursions together, making it hard for the viewer to feel any more sympathetic for the men than they would for the figures in a Hallmark greeting card. Carter and Edward travel to the Taj Mahal in India. They host their own African Safari. They go skydiving. They decide to get tattoos. They race cars against each other. They make plans to fly to the top of Mount Everest. How original, right? The movie becomes quite unbelievable in that it expects the rational viewer to believe that such wise, experienced old men would choose to enjoy such trivial, convenient pleasures before less-conventional ones.

     Freeman and Nicholson, as always, have their charms. When they are confined to the simplicity of minor Buddy-Comedy as their characters ail in the hospital, the two Hollywood-veterans are actually convincing enough to make the movie seem worthwhile. (Nicholson is especially pleasant, and he asks Freeman one of the most puzzled-over questions of recent film-history: “Were you born with those freckles?”) Once the actual plot kicks in, however, not even their seasoned acting-skills can overpower the stereotypical nature of the material. Come its conclusion, The Bucket List stands as disposable as an A-list Holiday-season sap-fest has ever been. Even more dismaying than the film’s abuse of two great actors is the fact that Reiner has turned his once-great directing career (let’s not forget that the guy made This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride, people!) into an overwhelmingly mediocre one. Just like Reiner’s recent Alex & Emma and Rumor Has It, this bland film is better left forgotten.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 1.7.2008

Screened on: 12.31.2007 at the AMC 30 at the Block in Orange, CA.


The Bucket List is rated PG-13 and runs 97 minutes.

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