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The Bucket List (8/10)

by Tony Medley

It would take a terrible writer and director, indeed, to make a movie co-starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman and come up with a dud. Fortunately, director Rob Reiner, (A Few Good Men, 1992, and When Harry Met Sally, 1989, among others), and screenwriter Justin Bakeman are too smart to screw this one up.

However, that said, the people who are promoting the film have done their best to screw it up. There is one very funny line in the movie, when Nicholson tells his assistant, ďNobody cares what you think,Ē but the geniuses promoting this film have put it in the trailer and it is completely out of context. What makes the line funny is what comes before. The line is unexpected, and very funny. But itís not unexpected any more because the PR people who made the trailer have telegraphed it. Itís a shame that people with no taste do this to films. If they had the confidence in this film that they should have, all they have to do is promote it by advertising that itís Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman together. Would you have to include spoilers in a trailer with a film starring Richard Burton and Peter OíToole? No way. So why include a spoiler in a film starring Nicholson and Freeman? Their presence alone is enough to draw an audience.

Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Freeman) are both terminally ill patients in one of Coleís hospitals. Cole is a megamillionaire and Carter is a mechanic who forsook his ambition to become a college professor to educate his children with a relatively menial job. We know heís smart because he answers all the questions on Jeopardy before the contestants. Carter is starting a list he calls The Bucket List, a list of things you should do before you die, or kick the bucket.

Cole thinks this is a great idea and convinces Carter to amplify his list and the two set off, at Coleís expense, to experience things they have always wanted to do. This could have been pretty lame, but Bakeman has written an intuitive script that allows the two to argue about the meaning of life, each from his own perspective. What is particularly invigorating about the movie is that it doesnít force one point of view down your throat at the expense of the other. Cole is pretty much an agnostic while Carter is a believer. They exchange their views frankly and without pandering.

In addition to the psychology of the film, the great acting, and terrific script, itís also a pretty good travelogue as Cole and Chambers go to places like the Taj Mahal, the Alps, the Great Wall of China, and other landmarks, including one of them skydiving over a citrus grove I used to own in Riverside County!