Ken's Review: The Bucket List - Funny and Heartwarming But Lacking in Quality
by Ken Evans
January 11, 2008
I miss the 80's and early 90's Rob Reiner. That was a director who picked great projects and creatively put them together. He made interesting stories wrapped in quality film making. You can credit him with some of the truly great classics, films like This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men and The American President. I love all of those movies and have seen each multiple times. It makes me wonder what happened to him in the last decade. Alex and Emma (2003) was the last film that I thought was ok but nowhere near great. Unfortunately, The Bucket List is just about the same, except with a better story.
Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is a single, rich, egotistical, selfish man who owns a string of hospitals around the country. Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) is an extremely smart, caring, giving man who is married and works as a car mechanic. Both become sick and are diagnosed with cancer. They end up sharing a room in the hospital where they build a strong friendship as they endure their cancer treatments. One night, Chambers decided to make a bucket list, which is a list of all the things you want to do before you die. Cole stumbles upon this list and decides that with his money they could actually do all of the things on it. So, instead of continuing any more painful treatments, they set off to complete everything on the bucket list.
The relationship that Nicholson and Freeman have in this film is truly fun to watch. They play off of each other and create many moments filled with emotion. The scenes where they shared intimate feelings and past experiences seemed honest and reflective. I have to give them both credit, because I wasn't sure if they were going to be able to pull this off.
I found the story to be heartfelt but without much depth. There are a few lessons but they all can basically be boiled down to trying to live your life without regrets. Instead, what I found worthwhile are those sincere moments between the two men. The discussions they have about life, religion, and family were interesting and enjoyable. I also appreciated they way they dealt with their situation, specifically the way they tried to laugh and still enjoy life instead of sulk and become depressed due to their illness. There were a few scenes where I found myself crying because I was laughing so hard. One scene in particular, dealing with coffee, had the whole theater laughing hysterically.
If I ended the review here, you would think this is a great film and might actually rush out to see it. But, I have to break the bad news. As a whole it was put together very poorly. Each location they visited during their journey looked extremely fake, even laughably fake. If they were actually at any of those locations, I couldn't tell. The places they went looked like a fake background on the set of some sound stage, especially one scene on top of a pyramid that looked like a painted background with paper mache bricks for them to sit on. It not only looked ridiculous but detracted from the seriousness of the scenes. I found myself, and heard others, laughing during serious parts because of the lack of quality of the surroundings.
This was a fun drama/comedy that might have been much better had they spent a bit more time on the quality and little details. All in all, I was able to look past the ridiculous scenery and lack of depth. Instead, I focused on their relationship and the intimacy the two developed. This definitely doesn't require a theatrical viewing; I would suggest it as more of a rental. But, if you're dying to go out to the movie theater this weekend, then this will probably be your best bet and you won't walk out feeling like you wasted your hard-earned money.