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The Bucket List

There are two very good reasons to see this movie: Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.


Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Freeman) find themselves sharing a hospital room when each is diagnosed with cancer. Realizing that their time is short, they create a "bucket list"--a list of things to do before they shuffle off this mortal coil. It's a good thing that Edward is so wealthy; money is no object for their globe-hopping excursion, as they try to cram what's left of their lives with memories. Thrown together by their mutual tragic circumstance, Edward and Carter come to a better understanding of each other--and of themselves--as they come to terms with their terminal illness. The basic concept of the film may seem grim, but Justin Zackham's script has its share of uplifting and light-hearted moments--and a few cloying ones, too.


Let's face it. We're talking Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson here, two of the best American actors around. Both have made their fair (and unfair) share of disappointing movies, but this modest comedy/drama is not among them. It's that selfsame modesty that keeps this film grounded in tearjerker territory--although it's a superior example of the genre, as well as being something of an anomaly in that it focuses entirely on two men. The film plays to their strengths: Nicholson is fiery and ill-tempered, Freeman is low-key and noble. It's genuinely a pleasure to watch these two titans teamed up, but the odds are admittedly in their favor. And, in the end, they make it look wonderfully easy. Sean Hayes takes everything in stride in the role of Nicholson's resilient right-hand man and Beverly Todd makes the absolute most of her role as Freeman's troubled wife, but Rob Morrow is wasted as the resident oncologist, perennially delivering bad news. Maybe his role ended up a victim of the editor's shears, or maybe he just wanted to work with Nicholson and Freeman. Freeman's real-life son Alfonso also appears as one of Carter's children, and an unbilled Kelly Preston pops up, too.


After several disappointing films--The Story of Us, Alex & Emma, Rumor Has It-- this is undoubtedly director Rob Reiner's best film in years. Admittedly, with Nicholson and Freeman in your corner, it's a golden opportunity, and Reiner takes full advantage. The prickliness is there. The camaraderie is there. The emotional resonance is there. It's all there--and it's almost entirely due to the teamwork of Reiner and his two stars, whose chemistry is clear from the outset. The only drawback is Marc Shaiman's syrupy score, which is a bit too much at times.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.