The Bucket List (4/10)

When thinking of what kind of tag lines I would give this film if I were part of the advertising department, the one I continually came up with was, “Cancer is fun!” The Bucket List probably wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but in a movie that boasts two of the best actors of their generation and a story does its best to tug our heartstrings, something tells me director Rob Reiner must have intended for us fall in love with this film. Perhaps it’s meant to be some grand sweeping story about following your dreams, but in the end the Bucket List is just downright insulting.

Jack Nicholson plays Edward Cole, a multi-billionaire who owns a hospital where apparently they’re not really concerned with making money, as “two beds, one room, no exceptions” is the standing rule. Unfortunately for him this means that he must not get his own room when he stays at his own hospital that looks like it belongs in Reading Rainbow, and never mind that he could afford going to the best hospital in the world with the best doctors. His roommate ends up being an old cancerous black man named Morgan Freeman (played by Morgan Freeman), who also happens to be narrating this whole tale. After finding out they have just about six months to live, ol’ Jack finds out that Freeman has this thing called “The Bucket List,” which happens to be a list of things he wants to do before he kicks the bucket. How cute. So, he convinces the poor guy that they should head out into the world to become Jumpy Old Men, continent hopping daredevils who aren’t bothered by the fact that there’s a whole mess o’ tumors eating away at their insides.

Okay, so, the premise is less than perfect, but that’s not what makes the Bucket List bad. A simplistic premise like this may have been able to be forgiven if Rob Reiner didn’t insult our intelligence about every five minutes. In the beginning of the film, Nicholson coughs up blood, and the room goes quiet and we’re supposed to feel sorry and scared for him. Then, just five or ten minutes later, we’re asked to chuckle when Nicholson needs to have his hair shaved because of the chemotherapy and ends up vomiting several times a night because of it. I never knew cancer could be so hilarious. Aside from this, the two treat the hospital like some kind of bed & breakfast. They can get up and go wherever and whenever they please, and screw that damn cancer. And once they’re out and on the road, the cancer just conveniently disappears. These men are receiving no treatment whatsoever, yet somehow they can climb mountains and pyramids and hills. There’s also a part in the movie where we waste an entire ten minutes on a location that could have been avoided by merely checking a weather report.

As Freeman and Nicholson hop from one blue screen to another, you begin to realize something. They’re hopping from one blue screen to another. From the first frame of this film to its last, it feels fake. You would think that it would be difficult to mess up a shot of someone sitting on top of one of the pyramids, but Reiner manages to screw it up royally. It looks like Nicholson and Freeman are sitting on a pile of bricks in front of screen that’s showing the vista. When they’re going through the African Savannah, National Geographic footage is tackily plastered onto the foreground as the Jeep roars through the backlot. A scene in France atop a hill overlooks the beautiful grainy blurry photoshopped ocean. It’s not moving, really. It’s distracting. And at the end of it all, the two learn the kind of life lesson that wouldn’t be out-of-place on Barney.

Nicholson and Freeman both have earnest fun with their roles, and they’re a lot of fun to watch, though Freeman needs to change it up soon. This man has an insane amount of potential yet he’s squandering it on roles that do the same thing over and over and over again. I swear, if he has another kindly old man role, I’m going to scream. Sure, he’s good, but he needs to expand his horizons a little. Nicholson is sometimes more creepy than anything else, and though these two characters are unbelievable together, the talent of these two actors and their chemistry works a little miracle. Sean Hayes from Will & Grace is subdued here, and surprisingly effective and hilarious. But these few saving graces can’t keep The Bucket List from its many insulting flaws. Movies that are unrealistic can be forgiven, but not when they strive for so much more. The Bucket List is DOA.


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