The Bucket List
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: John Mayer Music Video ‘Say’; ‘Writing a Bucket List’ – (Screenwriter Justin Zackham addresses the evolution of The Bucket List and his upcoming book where he reveals celebrity bucket lists; RT 5:33); ROM Link to: Tied – Additional Scenes /Jack &Morgan: All Seriousness Aside.
A BUCKET list, for those that don’t know, is a list of things to do before you die (or kick the bucket). In Rob Reiner’s new comedy-drama, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two cancer patients who concoct such a list and set about ticking it off before they pass on.
The film that ensues is an amiable and often thought-provoking affair but it falls some way short of the five-star effort you might have been expecting from such a great pairing.
Part of the reason for this is the tone, which veers awkwardly between slapstick and sentimental, but there’s also a lazy attitude adopted towards several of the locations and set pieces that becomes diverting and eventually frustrating.
The film picks up as hard working car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), a man with an astonishing amount of knowledge, suddenly finds himself in a Los Angeles hospital with inoperable cancer. He’s soon joined by Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson), a billionaire businessman and the hospital’s owner, who is facing a similarly bleak diagnosis.
Rather than take things lying down, however, the two form an unlikely friendship and put together their own bucket list to see out their final days in style. The ensuing trip takes them on a globetrotting adventure before they come to realise the most important things are those that remain closest to home.
At its best, The Bucket List is a touching drama about two men confronting their own mortality and putting their affairs in order. And, taken on those terms, it affords Nicholson and Freeman some lovely scenes together as they contemplate the meaning of life and their own place in the world.
Had it kept things on an intimate level, it would undoubtedly have been a classic. But by attempting to add all the trimmings of a big budget movie, Reiner insists on placing them in front (or on top) of some of the world’s most recognisable locations and doesn’t have the effects budget to make them look convincing.
He also overcooks some of the slapstick and offers one too many scenes of Nicholson throwing up or slipping over to dampen its overall effect. Likewise, a voiceover provided by the Freeman character is unnecessary and not really a stretch of the actor’s talents.
That The Bucket List remains worth seeing is a testament to the quality of his two leading men, who remain watchable throughout and clearly relish the opportunity of appearing together. There’s also good support from the likes of Sean Hayes (as Nicholson’s long-suffering assistant) and Rowena King (as Freeman’s wife). The sentimental conclusion, while obvious and equally schmaltzy, also affords Nicholson a lovely moment in the spotlight.
It’s just a shame that what should have been a classic worthy of addition to anyone’s film bucket list, doesn’t quite live up to that status in the end.
Running time: 1hr 37mins
UK DVD Release: July 7, 2008