"Bucket" is full of holes

Jan. 13, 2008, midnight | By David Zheng | 13 years, 9 months ago

Comedy-drama flatlines despite efforts of Nicholson and Freeman

Two of Hollywood's most successful and revered actors star in "The Bucket List," which unfortunately has little to offer in return. Despite the excellent performances of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, a lousy script and poor directing pulls this movie into a sappy sinkhole all the same.

Edward Cole (Nicholson), a bitter four-time-divorcee billionaire CEO of a health-firm, finds himself stuck – ironically, in his own hospital by his own cost-cutting policies - with Carter Chambers (Freeman), an auto-mechanic who forwent his early aspirations for his family. After both are diagnosed with cancer and given only six months to live, these polar opposites unite to live their dreams through "The Bucket List", the ultimate to-do-list of everything they ever wanted to experience before "kicking the bucket." Fueled with Cole's bottomless pockets, the terminally ill patients go skydiving, race Shelby Mustangs and travel the world in a private jet.

Of course, none of this zeal would be complete without healthy doses of endless sappiness and profound inner-philosophy. As they dine in France, climb the Egyptian pyramids and visit the Taj Mahal, Cole and Chambers also conveniently rediscover the true joys in life along the way. This feel-good movie attempts to be inspirational with underlying messages such as "it's never too late to live life to its fullest" among other pseudo-insightful life lessons but instead, it buries audiences under piles of schmaltz.

Director Rob Reiner and writer Justin Zackham heap on the sentimentalism wherever there is none. Understandably, Chamber's wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd), is not pleased that her husband has run off with a stranger in his last days after a 46 year marriage. However, eyes went rolling when the audience discovered - atop an Egyptian pyramid looking down upon the majestic landscape no less - that curmudgeon Cole had an estranged daughter. A pathetically tear-jerking reunion followed.

The parts were no doubt written with no one other than Nicholson and Freeman in mind; each plays his signature persona. Cole is the crass, arrogant and lively rebel, Freeman the introspective, wise and noble gentleman. The movie even begins with a overused Freeman voiceover. Despite the uninspired casting, Nicholson and Freeman work with Zackham's choppy and awkward script to build up a fitting chemistry in their forced friendship.

But alas. the entire adventure is rushed. Reiner dazzles viewers with CGI postcards of a location then moves on to a new adventure. It's strange seeing Cole and Chambers on the Great Wall of China for all of about thirty seconds and then appearing at their next destination. The doctors gave the duo six months to live but it seems like Reiner decided to give them only a week. Surprising, considering how slowly the movie crept before Cole and Chambers were out of the hospital.

Fortunately, "The Bucket List" has enough funny moments and a clever ending to redeem itself from being an entirely painful experience. Romanticists and aging adults who can connect with the themes may find "The Bucket List" worthwhile, but the rest of the audience will find themselves falling through its holes.

"The Bucket List" (97 minutes) is rated PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

David Zheng. David Zheng used to live in California but now he is trapped in Maryland. In his spare time, David likes to play sports in general, doze off in front of the computer, watch random movies, and eat ice cream. Although some may disagree, David is … More »

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