The Bucket List [DVD]


By Clint Morris

About 15 minutes into “The Bucket List”, Morgan Freeman’s character lists the worst parts of chemotherapy : vomiting non-stop, veins turning black, and of course, the days where you just feel like blowing your brains out. I couldn’t help but think half the audience watching said pic knew exactly what that felt like – after all, “The Bucket List” is one of those films that definitely won’t sit well with everyone – about ten minutes into it there’ll be more than a few stomachs churning.

Not to say Rob Reiner’s new warm-and-fuzzy dramedy is a poor film, it isn’t, it’s just that it’s a certain type of film – a popcorn pleaser that’s so overtly sweet, and cheekily button-pushy, it’d turn anyone into a diabetic by it’s end. Some love ‘sweets’ like this, but then others – usually critics or another equally fussy minority – just can’t stomach the syrup.

If you’re not a fan of the ‘floss’, you’ll definitely need some quick-eze after licking from this wooden spoon.

At the same time, if you are in the mood for an easy-to-watch and well-performed (c’mon, it’s Jack and Morgan! Could you do any better?!) serve of comfort food, then by all means, grab yourself a dessert spoon.

In the film, two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. Of course, what they really should be doing is spending their remaining days with their family – it takes them a few postcards to realise it.

One would probably have expected a film by Rob Reiner (“Misery”, “A Few Good Men”, “When Harry, Met Sally”) and starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two cancer victims who head off on a wild road trip together, to be anything but ‘fluff’ – in fact, you’d think it’d be an Oscar contender. Sadly, it’s not. Sure, parts of it are good – the first half-hour is solid, and the finale is rather sweet – but the majority of it is patchy at best.

The film seems unsure what it wants to be – is it a drama? Is it a buddy comedy (like “Grumpy Old Men”)? Is it a road movie? Or is it… dare I say, the god-awful “In-Laws” remake from a couple of years back reworked for Nicholson and Freeman? It’s a little of all those things, and it doesn’t work. Blame the writer, I say.

Justin Zackham’s script is rushed (he doesn’t develop the characters at all!), manipulative (“cry here, folks!”; ‘laugh here, folks!”) and far from the standard that Nicholson and Freeman are used to. The most annoying aspect of it though is the clunky middle, where our characters journey around the world – or rather, a series of cheap-looking soundstage backdrops dressed up to look like Paris, Egypt… what have you.

What saves “The Bucket List” from being a film only your unfussy-Nana-who-hasn’t-been-to-the-cinema-since-M*A*S*H would love is – well, Jack and Morgan, but also – the underlying theme : the always effective statement to “live your life to the most”.
A sweet message – but not exactly something that gets the heart tick of approval.

A Featurette and Music Video (Extras Unpreviewed)