Starring: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman
Director: Rob Reiner
Release Date: January 11, 2008 (wide)
Running time: 97min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: Warner Bros.
I like pizza. I’d say it’s one of my favorite foods. It’s easy, it’s always good, and you can create variety just by changing a few toppings around (I’d say I’m a supreme guy, for anyone interested). I also like chili and spaghetti. But if you tried to put chili and spaghetti on a pizza I don’t know that the end would justify the means. (Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad…). My point is just because you like the ingredients doesn’t mean you will like the finished product as a dish. You could say The Bucket List is kinda like a chili-spaghetti pizza.
I mean honestly, who doesn’t like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson? The two of them have been in some incredible movies. Doesn’t it make sense that the two of them in a movie together would be good, if for no other reason than to see them in the same movie? Yes, that makes plenty of sense. What doesn’t make sense is why they picked such a lackluster project to finally work together. And don’t get me started on Rob Reiner — or as the name tag he would wear to a high school reunion would read, “Hi, My name is: I haven’t made a good movie in over a decade.”
A mechanic, Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and the obscenely wealthy Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) are two elderly men who discover they have terminal cancer. As they share a hospital room, they become friends and decide to fulfill their lifelong personal desires by way of their “bucket list,” a list of things to accomplish before they kick the bucket. Cutesy. So the conveniently wealthy Cole (they need the trip bankrolled, don’t they?) and Carter up and take off to live out their wildest fantasies.
I don’t claim to understand women, but I have a handle on some of the basics. Such as if you just tell your wife you have less than a year to live and you plan on spending it gallivanting around the world with a stranger on some personal mission without explaining anything more, I’m pretty sure she’d smack your ass hard enough to put you back in the hospital. And not only do these terminally ill cancer patients show few signs of illness, they are apparently healthy enough to fly around the world and back. How convenient.
From here it is a rush job to see how many extravagant locations they can slap up on the green screen to make these two stand in front of. Some of it was bad. It reminded me of Toonces, the Driving Cat on SNL. Not once did you really believe the background to be conveying the realism of a cat driving a car. At least in Toonces’ case, it was supposed to be for comedic effect.
The saddest part of The Bucket List isn’t the impending doom of cancer, it is how depressing it is to see these two screen legends wasted on a movie this bad. It’s almost as if they got into filming, realized the garbage heap they were in the middle of, and just phoned it in. And it was a long distance call.
The Bucket List commits the most blatant of movie crimes: it thinks it is something that it is not and it tries way too hard. Reiner can’t decide how to play the material so he tries to funny it up. Then it needs to be serious and he pushes that down our throats. It’s not as emotionally manipulative as say, Pay It Forward, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sean Hayes as Chambers’ assistant is the best part of the movie. His laughs are accomplished through the subtle art of restraint. Restraint, huh? Now THAT would have been a novel idea.
And there’s the rub.
* out of ****