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The Bucket List (2007)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Genres:
Adventure, Comedy Drama, Drama, Road Movie
Director:
Rob Reiner Rob Reiner
Starring:
Jack Nicholson Jack Nicholson
Morgan Freeman Morgan Freeman
Sean Hayes Sean Hayes
Beverly Todd Beverly Todd
Rob Morrow Rob Morrow

6.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 14, 2008
The last time Rob Reiner made a good film was 1996 with "Ghosts of Mississippi". During the 1980's and early-1990's, he was one of the top directors working in the business with a string of both critical and commercial hits. Then, something happened. I don't know what. But, all of a sudden, Meathead couldn't produce anything close to what could be considered a good film. We were dealt the wretched "The Story of Us", giving Bruce Willis far more dramatic acting that he ever needs to shoulder; then came "Alex & Emma", one of the most pointless and morose romantic comedies to ever grace a movie screen; the final installment of his decline was "Rumor Has It", which seemed light-hearted and entertaining enough but failed on a multitude of levels. "The Bucket List" is the latest from the former cinematic master, a traditional buddy film that uses impending death as the catalyst for change. "The Bucket List" is one of those films you're either going to love or hate, and you're going to either love it or hate it for the same exact reasons. At the end of the day, it's the best Rob Reiner film since "Ghosts of Mississippi" and it reminds why he was once considered one of the greatest filmmakers around. However, it still doesn't feel like a thorough enough film.

When we first meet Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), he's underneath a hood, working on a car and answering every question Alex Trebek throws him on "Jeopardy". It's obvious he's a smart man, and then we watch as he discovers he has cancer. We first meet Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) as he addresses the planning committe about the construction of another hospital. He already owns and runs a few and has more money than he knows how to handle. He discovers that he too has cancer. This places Carter and Edward in the same hospital room, both being treated for cancer and both handling it in different ways. The two men strike up a friendship that becomes even deeper when the doctor gives each of them a very short amount of time to live. Carter starts to prepare something called a 'bucket list' - a list of things to do before he dies. Edward finds it and decides they need to both make one and complete all the items on the list. To the dismay of his confused wife (Beverly Todd), Carter consents and the two men begin a series of adventures that take them from the jungles of Africa to the mountains of China. The film follows the two men as they develop their friendship and comes to terms with the end of their lives. I won't give away the ending, but it's sad and sentimental and goes for the heartstrings, just as you'd expect.

The fundamental problem with "The Bucket List" is that it manages to be too sentimental. Critic Roger Ebert pointed out in his review that 'cancer just isn't funny'. I disagree. I think everything is funny if you understand the nature of the humor. I found the humor in the film far more rewarding then the constant sentimentality. I didn't like the scene where Freeman and Nicholson talk about the existence of God. I didn't like the scene where Freeman tries to reunite Nicholson with his estranged daughter. We could have done without those. The real story here is these two men and their relationship with one another. There is also an interesting element between Freeman and his wife, but that is not even given enough explanation or exploration. I also had a problem with some of the effects. It's so obvious that these men are not actually in the places they are pretending to be. One, that would be far too expensive. Two, a lot of the effects are obviously computer generated. There's even one scene where Nicholson's character looks out the plane and you can obviously tell it's a still image of the ground below that he's seeing. The effects even look downright creepy during the skydiving sequence. Too much went a long way here.

Luckily, for "The Bucket List", is stars two of the greatest living actors on the planet and they are what make this film so enjoyable. Morgan Freeman as been in a lot of bad films, but he's never been bad in them. Here, he is as excellent as ever as Carter. He has one particularly moving scene with a woman at a bar, when it's just a joy to watch his thought processes work. He gets a lot of smack for playing the same roles over and over, but who else plays them better? Whom else do you want to hear narrating a story like this? As for Jack Nicholson, he too is firing on all cylinders, and really gets some nice scenes to play at the beginning of the film. He hams it up occasionally, but that's kind of what you expect him to do. The scenes between Freeman and Nicholson are the best aspect of the film and both actors handle them admirably. It was also nice to see Sean Hayes play the serious character for a change. He is a nice rock for the humor surrounding him.

All said and done, "The Bucket List" entertained me. You can see the ending coming a mile away and it's sentimental to a staggering degree, but Freeman and Nicholson make it work. They find a lot of depth and sweetness in a script that's mediocre, at best. They take sub-par material and elevate it to their level. So, does this mean Rob Reiner is back? I don't think so. It's definitely a better film than we're used to from him, but he's got a lot of ground to make up if he wants to be forgiven for "Alex & Emma" and "The Story of Us". I think the problem that most people have with this film is that they can't find humor in such a depressing subject matter. But, I think you can find it easily in this film if you just look in the right places. I didn't expect the film to be so dark either, but what else do you expect in a film about two men dying from cancer? They've accepted the fact they're going to die and want to live life to its fullest before going? Why can't you laugh along with them straight up until the end. If they've accepted it, so should we. "The Bucket List" is nothing amazing, but it's entertaining and sweet and I absolutely recommend it.

6/10.
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Crispy #1: Crispy - added 04/21/2009, 01:02 AM
I enjoyed this one tremendously. Given the somewhat morbid underlying plot, I feel the overly sentimental scenes are a must and give the movie the proper weight it deserves. A lot of films try and preach living life to the fullest. In my opinion, this is one of more effective ones. I'd go around a high 9 for this. Highly recommended by myself.
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