Friday, January 11, 2008
Movie Report: The Bucket List
Everything that made me rave about Juno in the movie report below is missing in The Bucket List. It has big stars all right. They don't come any bigger than Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It has an A-list director and producer in Rob "Meathead" Reiner, scion of Carl Reiner. But it is a formulaic Hollywood movie that has been done hundreds of times, not an original thought or line in it.
Suspension of disbelief? Not for a second. This movie exists solely to sell popcorn, and it did well tonight at our local multiplex, the 4:30 p.m. showing being packed with geezers and geezettes, munching popcorn, cackling at familiar lines (come on, I have heard Nicholson's line, "Three things you got to remember at our age, 'Never pass a bathroom, never waste a hard on and never trust a fart,'" for nearly 50 years, even if he did deliver them well.) On the other hand, I doubt that the showings after 8:00 were nearly as profitable as the target audience will have taken out its false teeth, taken off its support hose, and be snoring in their beds after sundown.
Nicholson and Freeman, who in real life will both be 71 in the next several months, play a couple of guys diagnosed with terminal cancer and are given several months to live. Edward Cole, Nicholson's character, is a multi-millionaire who owns a chain of private hospitals. Carter Chambers, Freeman's character, is an automobile mechanic who dropped out of college after one year and got married because his wife got pregnant. No doubt because of Freeman's experience as God in Bruce Almighty, he knows everything.
Improbably, Cole, the multi-millionaire, is made to share a hospital room with Chambers, the mechanic. Cole is misanthropic, doesn't get along with anyone until he meets his new best friend, Chambers. Even in his youth, Chambers was wise (well, God doesn't need education or experience to figure things out) and he had started compiling a "bucket list," things he wanted to do before he "kicked the bucket." In the hospital, he works on and then discards the list, which is found and improved by Cole. When they're discharged from the hospital, they embark on a round-the-world adventure to get as many things crossed off their list as they can before they die. The list is amazingly ordinary. One would think that with all the high priced writers in Hollywood, they could find more unusual things for the bucket list than to jump out of an airplane, drive a Shelby Ford around a race track, go on an African safari, look at Mt. Everest and kiss the most beautiful woman in the world, but that was it.
If you've seen the trailers, then you've seen the most interesting parts of the film. It turns out that both men have relationship troubles with family members, and, guess what, after working on the bucket list, they decide that the family relationships are worth working on. And, SPOILER ALERT, guess who is the most beautiful woman in the world. But, Reiner is a professional schlockmeister, and he was able to make me wipe my eye (but only once) despite my cynicism and disbelief.
So, in summary, not a very good movie and not very good performances by the stars. If you want to see Nicholson playing the aging codger, his 2002 movie, About Schmidt is much better. I came home prepared to give it two out of five stars, but The Wife lobbied for four because it is better than a lot of the dreck in the theaters these days, so I finally compromised at three stars.
Let's see, I better work an Amish connection in here somewhere. Ah, yes, I would have been much less rootchi about this movie, if they had given the script to Diablo Cody for an injection of quirk.