Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I don’t think you can go too terribly wrong with ‘The Bucket List’. It’s directed by Rob Reiner who has made some really, really good movies. Not recently, but his resume is still pretty damned impressive. Plus it stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. I mean if you have to put two really old dudes in a movie I can’t think of two better than Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. If they could have tracked down Gene Hackman and had Clint Eastwood direct then we would have close to 300 years of really old dude goodness in a flick that would probably be the best ever made. Rob Reiner will have to do however, even though he’s comparatively a whipper snapper at a breezy sixty, and while ‘The Bucket List’ is nowhere near the best movie ever made, it is still a finely tuned and very entertaining piece of manipulative sentimentality that is bound to please.

Carter Chambers (Freeman) is a mechanic. Probably the smartest mechanic of all time as he peels off answers to even the most arcane questions as has a depth and scope of knowledge that would embarrass the Chairs at the most prestigious of Ivy League history departments. Then he gets the phone call.

Edward Cole (Nicholson) is a pompous ass. A pompous ass who knows how to maximize a dollar and put whatever is left in his pocket with the best of them. At some hospital board meeting, Cole, who’s present money making endeavor is reorganizing and maximizing profits at hospitals, informs these people that a hospital is not a country club but a hospital. He insists on two beds to every room, no matter what the circumstances, along with other Doctor opposed cost cutting measures. The proof is in the pudding because all of his hospitals, due to his strict cost cutting, are now making money. Then he coughs. If you cough in real life you grab a Halls with eucalyptus. If you cough in a movie, chances are you gonna die.

Into the hospital both these dynamic men go, both diagnosed with the worst kinds of cancers, both in the same room. Of course Mr. Cole wants his own room, considering he’s filthy rich and it’s his hospital for goodness sakes. But as his personal assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes) advises him, considering his ‘two men to a room’ mantra, this would a terrible public relations misstep. So these two old cats tough it out, suffer horrible chemo treatment together, talk about their lives and family, Cole married four times with an estranged daughter and Carter married for 40+ years ever the loyal family man, and forge a unique bond of friendship. Then Carter writes a list of things he would have liked to have done. Cole grabs the list and says ‘what the hell – I got the loot, let’s make it happen’. Carter is hesitant at first, particularly when his wife Virginia (Beverly Todd) gets wind of this lunacy, but death is imminent for these guys so off they go.

From the great pyramids to wrecking rare Shelby Cobra’s, these two men are having the time of their lives and building an even tighter bond, but there are lines and Carter crosses over a very delicate one of Cole’s, fracturing their new friendship. Tragedy will bring them back together, complete with the lessons they’ve learned in their short time together which trumps all they thought they knew in their lengthy lives.

Like I said, you really can’t go wrong with ‘The Bucket List’. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, particularly at these stages of their respective glorious careers, are incapable of delivering a subpar performance and as you might imagine both are at the top of their games here. These are two actors who know how to imbue their characters with texture, depth, layers or whatever kind of ‘actor speak’ you can think of, and director Reiner wisely palms off virtually the entire movie into these two old dudes trusty crusty hands. Admittedly the story matter is a bit grim with certain death being crux of the narrative, and as the dulcet tones of Narrator Morgan Freeman tells us in the very first scene, we know at least one of these guys isn’t surviving the movie. But considering the downer of the narrative, Rob Reiner does his best to keep the inevitable from consuming the film and manages to weave a somewhat positive spin out of it all.

Is ‘The Bucket List’ overly sentimental? Sure it is, with some of that sentimentality coming off feeling a little forced. The middle of the film seemed to drag a bit with even the prodigious skills of Nicholson and Freeman failing to hold one’s attention. Reiner is relentless like a bulldog in tugging at the heart strings in his attempts to wring every little bit of emotion out of the poor helpless viewer, which seemed unnecessary and overly manipulative… but it is a movie about dying old dudes so I suppose this is to be expected.

Regardless, this is a film that was destined to be a success from the day Freeman and Nicholson signed on the dotted line and it doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy watching these two masters work their mojo folks because in keeping with the theme of this film, I don’t know how much longer we will have the pleasure.

Real Time Web