Review: The Bucket List
PLOT: When Edward Cole, a powerful business man who owns several hospitals, falls ill, he finds himself subjected to his own rules of two beds to one room during his stay. His roommate is Carter Chambers who seems to be suffering from the same issues as Cole. Soon, the are both forced with the realization that they have very little time left in the world. With the clock ticking, the two create a bucket list of things they want to achieve before the end and they find themselves on a “life affirming” adventure.
I would like to say THE BUCKET LIST is a life affirming tale of how to live your life before you lose it. I’d really like to say that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have added another great on-screen duo that people will remember for years to come. But sadly, I have trouble saying either. Instead of life affirming, the words sappy come to mind, even a little preposterous. The idea of two men creating a “bucket list”, which is a list of things they want to accomplish before kicking the bucket is a very somber idea. Yet here, it is treated to a very simple and often unbelievable different strokes for different folks feel good movie. A kind of geriatric bromantic comedy/drama which never offers us more than a couple of good performances by Jack and Morgan.
The predictable story starts off with a uber rich white dude, and a working his whole life to take care of his family African-American dude. The ultra rich dude, Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) owns a bunch of hospitals and seems to be pretty cheap, after all, “I run hospitals, not health spas”, he claims when defending his two beds to one room reasoning. And guess what? That’s going to be tested when he gets sick, along with Mr. Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). After Cole starts coughing up blood, he ends up in Chambers room. He bitches and moans about being next to “zombie boy”, but his personal assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes) reminds him of the P.R. nightmare that might come with him getting a private room. Thus, a buddy dramatic comedy is born. Cole likes fancy food and only has his assistant as a visitor. Chambers seems to know every useless fact every recorded and has his loving family visit him.
Soon, the two begin to play cards, chit chat, and become unlikely friends. And the closer they are, the harder the diagnosis is for each one. Soon, Cole finds a piece of paper which Chambers had been writing on. And thus, the title of the film comes into play. They decide to create the bucket list, and just like Julia Roberts did with Richard Gere, Morgan Freeman decides to go away with the richie and tells his wife that he has earned some time to do something for himself. Although the two don’t have any sex. Part of my problem started with this (not the sex part). For some reason, I found it very hard to believe that a dying man would want to leave his family and go car racing, take trips to the Himalayas and Hong Kong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that some people would do exactly that. I just didn’t buy that this devoted family man would want to risk never seeing his wife, children and grandchildren again, just to spend a bunch of money with the rich dude.
While I had problems with the storyline, it wasn’t what bothered me the most about the film. From almost the first scene, it is a predictable affair that never serves up any real emotion. Sure it’s a sad story, and it would have been nice to feel something other than I did. From the opening narration where Morgan is talking about his wonderful buddy that passed away and their blooming friendship. All the way to the final moments where everything that you thought would happen does, yet none of it rings true. It felt contrived and forced, almost begging the audience to pull out the hankie.
As for Freeman and Nicholson, you really can’t say that the film not working is any fault of theirs. Hardly. In fact, they both give very nice performances and are able to exude some moments that shine in an otherwise saccharine sweet script. I also liked Sean Hayes as the much put upon assistant. In fact, one of the few moments that found a chuckle for me was him dealing with his boss. He was able to look pretty good alongside a couple of wonderful actors. I also felt that Beverly Todd, who portrays the wife of Carter, was very believable and that made the whole thing about leaving his family storyline much more irritating. Rob Reiner has directed a passable dramatic comedy which will probably please fans of his two leads. But much like the script, it felt like a by the numbers buddy movie that will have some old folk contemplating making their own list. Harmless and predictable. My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO