The Bucket List (2007)
Dir: Rob Reiner
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes and Rob Morrow
Talk about a film with lots of pluses and plenty of minuses. Let’s delve into the positives of The Bucket List first, shall we? The storyline surrounding two unlikely hospital-mates struggling with cancer has the making of a great story to be sure. The release date of the movie coming around Christmas is another plus. It sure didn’t hurt to have such legendary talent in the top two roles. I think the fact that both of these actors are over 60 is another immense benefit to the film: I’m not kidding when I say that too often Hollywood puts the over 50 crowd last on its list of movie audiences, which is a real shame I think (see note 1). Regardless, we have Nicholson type cast as the crusty, old, don’t-F-with-me billionaire who suffers the agony of not only having cancer – but a roomate too (which is the result of his own silly rules as the owner of the hospital – a little kharma for you there, Jack). Then of course, we have Freeman as the life-long mechanic, who worked his whole life for the benefit of his wife and kids. He prides himself on his continued education and is always playing trivia, reading books or watching Jeopardy! Put these two together and what’d’ya got? A holiday movie!
However. The whole thing seemed a little predictable, didn’t it? Did you feel like you knew where they were going and you were just supposed to “enjoy the ride”? On another note, I have an overall complaint with recent movies that many of them seem to completley skip the script revision stage. I am not saying this was a poorly constructed story, but it could have used some improvement, right? I don’t think Ebert was off in his review when he complained that it seemed awfully Hollywood to have Nicholson vomitting in his hospital bathroom on page 29 only to be skydiving with Freeman a few pages later! And another thing: why was it essential for Nicholson to be a billionaire? In other words, why did they have to run all over the world? Why couldn’t they have done many of the things on the actual “List” locally??? For that matter, why did Freeman’s character have a family? I really didn’t care for the scene in which he told his wife that he’s running off for a while (granted, I’ve never been close to his character’s position). My point is how much more interesting might it have been if Freeman’s character was a priest, a preacher, a pastor? It would have saved us the scene with Freeman shoving his wife and family aside and it might have opened the door to some interesting and quality – not cliche – dialogue about “what it all means” with their characters. It’s a thought, that’s all.
In the end, this film is a perfect example of why I find it impossible to give a movie “stars”. How many stars does The Bucket List get? I don’t know! If I saw this with my parents, I’d be apt to give it more stars than I might watching it alone. I think if you, dear Reader, were to watch this little drama, you’d be entertained – but you’d probably agree that it kind of missed the mark, too.
Note 1: My comment surrounding the audiences of movies and the over-60 stars is summed up this way: we’re always reading about the next Iron Man movie, the latest Pixar film and who’s sleeping with who in Hollywood. But I’m always wondering why there aren’t “medium sized pictures” targetting the over 50 crowd. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of real issues that folks go through in that stage of their lives: health issues, retirement transitions, the coming of grandkids and the passing of friends. Outside of The Bucket List, how many films aimed at an aging audience can you name from the past five years?