The Bucket List (WB, 2007) D: Rob Reiner, w/ Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman. Rating: NN; DVD package: N
Finally, a use for that home lobotomy kit. Crack it open, put it to work and sit back to enjoy the squishy uplift, polished acting, slick direction and pretty scenery untroubled by the movie’s burning, unresolved central question: is this film hopelessly naive or terminally cynical?
The set-up says naive. A mechanic (Morgan Freeman) ends up sharing a hospital room with the rich asshole (Jack Nicholson) who owns the privatized, sub-standard hospital. Like that’d ever happen. Both men have terminal cancer. The mechanic makes his bucket list, things he’d like to do before kicking off. The asshole decides they’ll do them. Tourism ensues, leading to friendship and the redemption of the asshole.
The screamingly obvious moral here (and what it’s screaming is “cynicism”) is not about the redemptive power of friendship, but that having rich friends is fun. These guys do Mount Everest, sub-Saharan Africa, the Taj Mahal, Hong Kong and the Great Wall of China. Not a trip I can afford, dying or not.
Except for the Great Wall, which they defile with a motorcycle ride, all their destinations serve as mere postcard-pretty backdrops to banal philosophizing and self-revelation. Those shots look like green screen and suggest they didn’t send the stars, or even body doubles, to integrate into the actual locations. That suggests cynicism.
So does the beyond-the-grave structural device, which takes the sting out of death and deflates the little atheist-believer tension between the characters.
Nicholson, Freeman and director Rob Reiner all deliver solid, professional work in the service of a couple of small laughs and some flaccid tear-jerking. Sadly, their enthusiasm for the project doesn’t extend to doing extras. That leaves screenwriter Justin Zackham, who conceived the project, to turn a five-minute segment explaining the bucket list concept into a commercial for his book. This, too, suggests cynicism.
EXTRAS Explaining-the-concept doc. Widescreen and full-frame. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.