Morgan Freeman is an auto mechanic who learns he is dying of cancer. Jack Nicholson is a self made millionaire who learns he is dying of cancer. These are their wacky adventures!
Rob Reiner has perfected this type of movie. The man who once brought us interesting and quirky stories (This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride) has become comfortable a little too comfortable. Instead of delivering off the wall, interesting ideas, he has slipped into a sense of catharsis giving us movies that are only meant to pull heart strings or deliver sappy rom-com’s.
The Bucket List is one of his “heart string” films and doesn’t seem like anything the man who brought us Spinal Tap would ever direct. Morgan Freeman is Carter, an auto mechanic and family man who learns he has cancer. I am guessing it is lung cancer because there is a close up of him dropping a cigarette when he finds out. Jack Nicholson is Edward, a self made millionaire who is introduced to us as an uncaring man who wants to privatize hospitals, while eliminating much of what is needed to make them comfortable to the patients. “Two beds to a room, no exceptions.” So when he finds out he has cancer, he gets to room with Carter and off we go on a remake of The Odd Couple.
Carter brings up the idea of the Bucket List, a list of things to do before he dies. While Carter mentions ideas like laugh until you cry or help a complete stranger, Edward has grander ideas like go skydiving, get a tattoo or go big game hunting. It doesn’t take a genius to see this films Scrooge will end up happiest when he completes Carter’s desired goals instead of his own materialistic desires. You know exactly where this movie is heading and there is not a surprise to be had.
Morgan Freeman is good, as always, in his role. Much of the movie uses his trademark voice over, which is a little clichéd by this time. Nicholson fares worse in his role, as he goes from brilliant in his laid back, sardonic speeches to downright horrible when he gets excited during the thrill seeking moments of the movie. I don’t think I have ever hated a Nicholson performance until I saw him in the airplane before skydiving. I would say the best character in the movie is Sean Hayes’ portrayal as Thomas, Edward’s personal assistant. He is the brunt of all Edward’s verbal abuse and it is his reaction to said abuse that delivers the most laughs.
The biggest problem with the movie is the unrealistic nature of the entire process. The two guys have cancer and are miserable. Then they are miraculously back on their feet, off skydiving and racing cars. I understand this is necessary to entertain through the second act of the movie but you need some kind of realism if you want to believe this plot. Another problem I have is the way Edward, the good Samaritan of the two, leaves his wife and family behind to rush off and live his final days with Edward, fulfilling their list. Once again, this is needed to move the plot, but with the way he dismisses his wife, it is hard to earn back any sympathy for the man.
However, Rob Reiner is a master at this type of emotional manipulation and sucks you right back into the story, and I dare you not to tear up when the inevitable happens. That is the greatest crime of all. After all the missteps along the way, the film is able to succeed in the area most important. You leave thinking it was a success. However, upon closer inspection, you realize it was nothing more than slight of hand – a cheat.
Writing a Bucket List is a five minute featurette about writing the screenplay. It also touches on writing your own bucket list. There is also a music video for Say by John Mayer. For a big time movie, there is really squat in the way of special features on this DVD.