February 9th, 2008

THE BUCKET LIST (2007) ***

“I turned down a luncheon with Michelle Pfeiffer to be here.  You need me more than I need you!”  Jack Nicholson says these words early into The Bucket List while addressing a committee. 


He could have been talking to the screenwriter. 


Seriously, if ever a movie needed Nicholson’s talents it’s this one.  Only Nicholson, along with co-star Morgan Freeman, could sell a predictable, cloying, and cliché ridden serio-comedy like this one and make it play. 


The film’s title refers to the duo’s list of things they want to do before they die.  Nicholson is a billionaire and Freeman is an auto mechanic and trivia buff.  While rooming together in a hospital, they grudgingly befriend each other and Nicholson uses his vast wealth to set out to accomplish all of their lifelong goals before they… you guessed it, kick the bucket.  They go skydiving, visit the Taj Mahal, climb the pyramids of Egypt, go on an African safari, etc., etc., etc.  Along the way they learn something about themselves and each other. 


Yeah, like I said this movie is predictable.  It should have been called The Cliché List as the director Rob (This is Spinal Tap) Reiner crossed off every formulaic aspect the screenwriters had to offer up.  But what saves the movie from becoming Grumpy Terminal Men is the excellent performances by Nicholson and Freeman.  Their chemistry together is what makes the movie fun and it’s a shame they waited this long in their careers to finally make a movie together.  Sure, the script is sappy as all get out, but the actors have a way of diluting the more syrupy aspects of the movie into something entertaining rather than patronizing.   


The film has it’s share of lapses in logic (Would you really want to jump out of an airplane immediately following extensive chemotherapy?) and has more than more than a few plot holes (Like why the heck would a billionaire check into his own hospital?  Wouldn’t it be easier to hire a private physician?), but when the two stars are cooking, you won’t care too much. 


What’s more is that Nicholson gets plenty of choice dialogue to feast on.  My favorite being his three rules to live by:  “Rule #1:  Never pass up a bathroom.  Rule #2:  Never waste a hard-on.  Rule #3:  Never trust a fart.”