Directed by: Rob Reiner
Premise: A pair of terminally ill cancer patients, one an auto mechanic (Morgan Freeman) and the other the owner of the hospital providing them with care (Jack Nicholson), spend a week on the road fulfilling the dreams of their youth.
What Works: The Bucket List pairs a couple of A-list veteran actors with fairly easy material and the two are able to play off of each of each other. There is a lot of humor and it’s fun to watch Nicholson and Freeman together. The film has a nice, warm tone to it, the kind of safe, family friendly material that director Rob Reiner does well.
What Doesn’t: Despite an interesting premise, The Bucket List does not fully realize its potential. The tasks that the characters set out to achieve seem totally random, like they were just set pieces that the filmmakers thought would be fun to watch with old people involved. As a consequence, the tasks are without value or meaning to the story or to the characters, and the middle of the film is an empty collection of disconnected vignettes. The two lead actors don’t really give acting performances so much as they provide impressions of their typical shticks, with Freeman as the wise old sage who provides narration to the story, and Nicholson as the hyper but cantankerous ladies man. The story is fairly predictable and resolves itself not with revelation by plot or character development, but with the forced reconciliation typical when someone dies in a Hollywood film. Instead of deepening an appreciation for life by facing death, The Bucket List reduces life to superficial activities that just fill the time between birth and death without meaning or purpose.
Bottom Line: The Bucket List is a mediocre film that is far below the talents of Nicholson and Freeman. Despite a few good lines, there is an overwhelming sense of emptiness to the film that ought to be filled with insight or a heart.
Episode: #179 (February 17, 2008)