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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Buddy Film > Road Movie > The Bucket List (Theatrical Film Review)

The Bucket List (Theatrical Film Review)


Stars: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman

Director: Rob Reiner

Critic's rating: 7 out of 10


Review by Chuck O'Leary



The Bucket List tells the touching story of how two dissimilar men, in many ways polar opposites, deal with the fact that they both have terminal cancer and only have a year (at most) to live.  As directed by Rob Reiner and written by Justin Zackham, the film itself gets a little too Hollywood for its own good, but the biggest pleasure here comes from the moments where two of our best actors (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) simply talk to one another about life.  Furthermore, this is a film about something that will hit close to home for a lot of people, and cause viewers to give pause and ponder the question, "What would I do if I suddenly found out I only had months to live?"


The now raspy-voiced Nicholson plays Edward Cole, a super-wealthy businessman, who, in the irony of all ironies, callously owns hospitals like the one where he'll soon spend a few agonizing months after being diagnosed with cancer.  "Two beds to a room, no exceptions," he says.  Therefore, he'll be forced to follow his own rules and share a room with another patient.


In the next bed is another cancer patient named Carter Chambers (Freeman), an extremely well-read auto-mechanic, who might not be rich in a material way, but actually has a richer life than the lonely Edward.  Carter has the support of a loving, longtime wife (Beverly Todd) with whom he's raised three children.  In contrast, despite all of his money, Edward is revealed to be something of a sad character whose only companions are people who are paid to be there, like his ubiquitous personal assistant (Sean Hayes) and the occasional call girl -- somehow you get the feeling this character isn't all that far from the real Jack Nicholson.


The Bucket List is essentially a bittersweet "buddy film" about how both men help each other through their unlikely alliance -- Edward will use his wealth to help Carter see the world and go to places and do things he only dreamed about doing, while Carter will help Edward to become human again and get back in touch with his estranged daughter.


The title comes from a list of things Carter and Edward decide to do before they inevitably "kick the bucket."  The idea is to get the most out of life while they still can.  For instance, the senior citizens will skydive, race classic cars and visit exotic locations all around the globe (with the help of Edward's private jet).  But the list has a few harder to define items on it such as "witness something truly majestic," "help a complete stranger" and "laugh until you cry."


To enjoy the film, one must go along with the premise and not give too much thought to how Carter leaves behind a worried wife while in dire health with limited time remaining.  It's entirely understandable that some may see Carter's sudden abandonment of his wife for (what appears to be) a few months of fun and soul-searching with a new rich friend as incredibly selfish.  Especially for a man who claims to be as happily married as Carter.


One of my problems with the film is that by making Nicholson's character super-rich, it makes certain things on the list too easy to accomplish.  I think the film would have been more interesting and easier for the vast majority of the viewing public to relate to if both characters were written as middle-class men of modest means whose bonding happens while traveling to just a couple destinations.  Too often, all of Edward and Carter's globe-trotting plays like a checklist of things trying to be squeezed into an all-too-brief 97 minutes.  Most movies today could afford to be much shorter.  The Bucket List is a film that could have benefited from being a bit longer.


Still, though, this is easily Reiner's best work since the last time he directed Nicholson, in 1992's A Few Good Men.


One final complaint, and this is a problem you can't blame on the filmmakers as much as the marketing department at the studio, but The Bucket List epitomizes the lazy, uncreative way trailers are assembled nowadays, essentially giving away the entire movie in chronological order within three minutes.  By all means see what is a good movie.  Just try to avoid the trailer beforehand.


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