Movie Review for The Bucket List (2007)

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Review #598 of 365
Movie Review of The Bucket List (2008) [PG-13] 97 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.75
Where Viewed: Harkins Ciné Capri at Northfield 18, Denver, CO
When Seen: 12 January 2008
Time: 8:00 pm
DVD Release Date: 10 June 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Rob Reiner (Rumor Has It...)
Screenplay by: Justin Zackham (The Fastest Man in the World)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Jack Nicholson (The Departed) • Morgan Freeman (Gone Baby Gone) • Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace") • Beverly Todd (Crash) • Rob Morrow ("Numb3rs")

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Click to see photos from the Premiere of The Bucket List
Click to read the spoiler points for The Bucket List
Unrealistic—probably. Silly special effect green screen travel scapes—likely. Unbelievable activities by people who've just undergone intensive chemotherapy—doubtless. Platitudes galore and another film the opens with magnanimous voiceover by Morgan Freeman—definitely.

The Bucket List, when taken at its core can have a miraculous impact on one's soul, if you let it.
And yet, The Bucket List, when taken at its core can have a miraculous impact on one's soul, if you let it. If you're looking for reasons not to get anything out of it, you probably won't, and you'll probably be better off taking your hypercritical skepticism to see There Will Be Blood.

Directed by Rob Reiner who's been known to turn out a feel good comedy or two in his day from a screenplay by Justin Zackham, The Bucket List features two of the most venerable male actors working today, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. This is Mr. Nicholson's first performance, ever, where despite his cantankerous character, if haven't already fallen for him over the years, you will, and for real. Open him up, and; if this is what you find inside, he's absolutely adorable—never thought you'd read that written about Jack Nicholson did you? As always, Morgan Freeman is his calming, wise, but not overly sentimental self. Put them together and you have, perhaps, an unlikely couple, but one which works to tap the undercurrents of doubts and fears we all experience when ever we are forced to contemplate the meaning of our own lives. The result is baffling it its simplicity prompting more than a dozen grown men to exit the theater blubbering in tears, one even exclaimed, "Man, I don't wanna die!"

The Bucket List is a film that cannot be judged effectively by its parts. In fact, other than dissecting the acting performances one by one, all of which were A+, the parts hardly yield any cause for singular praise. It is only when judging the sum of the parts and their interaction in a systems approach that the true merits and impact of the film can be fully realized. One of the problems with too may film critics today is that far too many are didactic, Cartesian thinkers who deconstruct films into their elements, analyze each, rate each, and then sum them for a score. It's actually easy to do this and want to do this. On some levels it even works. The problem with the Cartesian approach is that it presumes that greater understanding or clarity of a complex system can be understood better by knowing all there is to know about the parts. The classic example of where this fails as noted Austrian Physicist turned Biologist Fritjog Capra, author of The Web of Life notes, can be found in the Cartesian study of the human brain. Dissemble it to its neurons and study them all you want. Learn everything about them and what they do, and yet, knowing all that, there would be no way to predict that when you put billions together into an ordered bundle, out of it could emerge the emotion of love. Likewise, in many ways for a film. As much as the deconstruction may help in understanding the parts, that alone cannot explain the way one feels after seeing a film. Such is the case for The Bucket List. So, don't try. Rather let the film impact you for all that it can. Allow it to open up your eyes to the possibilities in our lives even when confronting our worst fear, our own demise. Just as the relationship between Jack Nicholson's billionaire Edward Cole and Morgan Freeman's auto mechanic with a huge family Carter Chambers emerges organically as they share a hospital room to prevent a public relations nightmare for Cole's hospital conglomerate, allow the film's message to reach in and impact you, you'll be glad you did.

As the film opens, we meet Edward Cole and his trusty assistant, Thomas (whose real name is Matthew but Edward finds that too biblical). Edward is bragging about the importance of his company's fiscal acumen "Two patients to a room, no exceptions" and how he doesn't need more hospitals in his fold, more hospitals want to be in his fold, when he suddenly endures a massive nosebleed and learns he has brain cancer. He wakes up in a room in one of his hospitals and learns from the hovering Dr. Hollins (Rob Morrow) that he's survived the operation, barely. His roommate, an auto mechanic who is in for pretty much the same thing, does not meet his initial expectations. Thomas (Sean Hayes) calms him down suggesting him having a private room would only make him look bad in the eyes of shareholders and the media and by giving him a cup of his coveted Kopi Luwak (the world's most expensive coffee). While complaining about rooming with "Zombie Boy", over the next few weeks, the two form a solid, 'gin-playing' bond. Eventually, they learn despite all the best efforts of medical science and expensive doctors, each has but six to twelve months to live, prompting Carter to construct his "Bucket List" based on an assignment given by his college freshman philosophy professor which asked each student to draft a list of things he or she would like to accomplish before they "kick the bucket". When Edward discovers the list, he whips up a plan. "We could do this, we should do this," he exclaims. Enduring heavy protesting from his wife Virginia (Beverly Todd), the twosome head out on a grand adventure of skydiving and sightseeing around the globe. The list, however, contains noble causes too such as "laughing so hard that I cry", "kissing the prettiest woman in the world", "helping a stranger" and "looking upon something majestic". As the two globetrot, Carter's vast knowledge of history and trivia comes in handy as a vehicle for getting the two to think more about the meaning of their lives. On top of a pyramid in Egypt, Carter asks Edward to answer the two questions he claims the ancient Egyptians thought were asked of people upon their entrance or denial to heaven, "Did you find joy in your life?" and "Did you bring joy to others?". Edward has a hard time with the second one given that he's been estranged from his one living relative, his daughter, for years. Of course, it's obvious he's now brought joy to Carter if no one else. It's the film's final few scenes, though that culminate the messages of the film when Carter finally gets to laugh until he cries when he reveals the origins of Edwards Kopi Luwak to him for the first time and explains why he's never been a consumer of the substance not just the fancy price of sometimes over $100 per pound, and the remainder of the list items are crossed off.

If your are at a stage in your life where you need guidance and inspiration as to what to do next, where to press on, what to accomplish, and how to find meaning in it all, The Bucket List may take you to the front door of your next journey. After that, the rest is up to you.

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring The Bucket List (2007)
Cast Members
Jack NicholsonMorgan FreemanSean Hayes
Beverly ToddRob Morrow
Rob Reiner
Justin Zackham
CD Soundtrack

Review-lite The Bucket List (2007) [max of 150 words]
Here are Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List directed by Rob Reiner from Justin Zackham's screenplay at their finest. Playing each a cantankerous old man of his own kind, Freeman on the softer side, the accidental hospital roommates learn of similar six-month fates. Shortly after, they are jet-setting spending as much of Nicholson's Edward Cole's money as they can. Along the way, the two become best friends each impacting the other's lives in more ways than one. The result is a dramedy that can have a miraculous effect on a willing soul.

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