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The Bucket List

  • 2008-03-26
  • By Tim Oscher

JACK AND MORGAN: Two films legends get set to ehhh... jump out of a plane.

Director: Rob Reiner
 
"The Bucket List" is Hollywood at its slick worst: sickeningly maudlin, shamelessly manipulative and as subtle as a hammer to the head.

Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is an elderly billionaire who has made his fortune by buying out struggling public hospitals and making them profitable. After coughing up blood one day he is taken to one of his hospitals and forced to share a room with Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman).

The implausibility of a billionaire sharing a hospital room in his own hospital goes without saying, but the script crudely sets up the scenario by stressing that it would be a PR disaster for Cole to have his own room.
Both men are dying from cancer. But where Cole is a foul-mouthed, adventure-seeking hedonist, Chambers is a humble mechanic and old-fashioned family man who has never cheated on his wife.

The first half hour or so is actually quite good and is even reminiscent of the wonderful "About Schmidt." The debilitating effects of old age and sickness are shown in surprisingly graphic detail between some touching moments of dialogue. But then Chambers draws up his so-called 'bucket list' and the film rapidly disintegrates from there.

The 'bucket list' consists of 10 things he has always wanted to do before kicking the bucket, hence the film's cutesy title. With his new found billionaire buddy, Chambers goes off around the world to fulfil his life's dreams.
Together they jump out of an airplane, gaze at the pyramids and race fast cars, among other things. One thing on Chamber's list is to laugh until he cries. Just before going into surgery, Cole cracks a joke. Chambers starts laughing until tears inevitably appear in his eyes. He then immediately crosses the wish off his list and promptly stops laughing. Like the film as a whole, the moment just seems disconcertingly empty.

That's the problem with "The Bucket List." It's so contrived on every level that it's impossible to really engage with the characters, despite the impressive ease with which Nicholson and Freeman go through the motions.
Cancer is made to seem like a hoot. All your dreams can come true as long as you're bankrolled by a billionaire. And yes, even death is a happy ending.

"About Schmidt" was also about finding redemption late in life. But where that film was wonderfully warm, witty and humane, "The Bucket List" is something you truly will want to kick.

Now showing in Latvia. Opens March 28 in Lithuania and April 18 in Estonia

 

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