The Bucket List ***
"The Bucket List" is corny, overally sentimental, and even a bit paint by numbers at time-but than again that is the definition of a feel good movie. I wouldn't expect it to be anything less. But there is something that you know going into this film that is not normally there in most feel good movies-and that is the fact that it stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Suddenly it doesn't seem quite so bad to face up to. This is in fact the first Rob Reiner directed film in some years that actually starts to have us understand how he ended up being such a name in direction (directing classics like "When Harry Met Sally," "A Few Good Men," "The Princess Bride" (which I still haven't seen), and "Stand By Me," not to mention "This Is Spinal Tap," and those were all in a row. It is still flawed-my God is this movie full of flaws-but it is consistently entertaining, well acted, and you might even shed a tear or two by its end (I certainly did.) And when you walk out of it you-well, you feel pretty good-ironic since this movie focuses on two people who are months away from death.
Nicholson plays Edward Cole, a millionaire who made his money running hospitals. He is rich, full of anger, and treats his assistant Thomas like dirt-he also doesn't even call him by his actual name. After defending his position to give everyone a roommate ("I run hospitals, not health spas. Two beds to a room, no exceptions!) Edward finds out that he has something wrong with him, and of course he is put in a room with another man. It's Carter Chambers, a mechanic who has just found out that he doesn't have much time left because of the cancer eating him away. The two of them both find out they don't have much time left, and when Carter is found doodling away on something called a bucket list-a list of things that you want to accomplish in life before you kick the bucket-Edward is inspired to spice up their lives for their last remaining months. And it begins with them going skydiving, car racing, and just traveling the world and seeing everything they always wanted to-a trip that doesn't settle well with Carter's wife.
If there is one thing wrong with this movie it's the special effects, which just showcase how cheap this movie probably was to make. Scenes of the two men skydiving, and doing their car races are clearly just their faces plastered onto actual images of people doing those things. It's completely unnatural and has a fakeness to it that even films like "The Golden Compass" and "The Water Horse" can't exactly beat. In addition, shots of them in a restaurant in Paris or even walking in India look like they were just in front of a green screen, and I wondered how much it would have actually cost to have them go to these places, or at least somewhere similar to it. I would go into some made up rant about Reiner doing this on purpose to show a comparison to what is real for Carter and Edward being something unreal for us, but I really just think it was a cheap budget, and a lack at trying to make it look realistic.
Despite having its eye-rolling moments, "The Bucket List" ends up being a nice little affair. It has its share of laughs and tears, a nice fitting ending, and its well acted by just about everyone involved. Nicholson and Freeman will get the most credit, but Sean Haynes has nice supporting work as Nicholson's assistant, and Beverly Todd as Freeman's wife. You can say that Nicholson and Freeman are simply doing variations on parts they've done in the past-Nicholson as the bachelor, easy talking, can get any woman that he wants type, and Freeman as the advice giver-the guy that knows everything, and yet still can't figure anything out. It does work here, though, even though I can live without Freeman narrating every picture he's in. I'm getting the idea that they write that after he becomes involved, because there is no way that every script that he is asked to do has a narration part for this specific character. For certain the movie could have been much better-perhaps a screenplay that was worked on just a little bit more-this could have been something that perhaps James L. Brooks could have worked on. It achieves its purpose, which is to tell a nice little story-shed a tear, have a laugh, enough yourself on a weekend afternoon. "The Bucket List" is opened in New York and LA for the time being, with a wide release set for January 11th. I'm guessing this is to make it qualify for awards and at the same time stay away from the very crowded movie season at the moment-"The Bucket List" doesn't even come close to being something I'd give an award to, but it's good enough to recommend.
And on the side-the poster above is probably the worst poster I've seen for a movie all year.