Not even taking Christmas off from serving the fine readers of Razorfine, we’ve got a look at the new Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman picture today. Spending the last days of their lives traveling around the world, The Bucket List is a movie that is sweet when not saccharine, and one that’s probably worth your time.
The Bucket List
3 & 1/2 Stars
There is a seeming tug-of-war of ways to take The Bucket List. It can be a sweet glimpse on the twilight of life and what it can be; but it can also be another onslaught of filmmaking that takes itself to seriously. Either way to look at the film can work, but even when you’re forced to make a compromise between the two, it’s hard to deny that it’s still a sweet movie that works better than it should.
In the movie, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two dying men sharing a hospital room. When they find out that neither have more than a year to live, they make a pact to finish off their ‘Bucket Lists,’ a run-down of everything that you want to have done in your life. Using Nicholson’s character’s fortune, they globe trot to natural and man-made wonders and, without realizing it, learn something about life. Aww.
It’s a script packed with tender, emotional moments; full enough that it almost feels exploitative. But though those warm fuzzies could have accidentally sailed the movie off into being too saccharine and preachy, they’re presented fully enough that it’s just grounded enough to hold up.
You might expect any movie starring heavyweights like Nicholson and Freeman to bursting from the seams with some of the best acting around; but just as the film’s approach to the topic of death, the film’s acting is pretty light. The stars put on their sentimental faces and give us light-hearted turns. It works for the picture; but it’s no where near filling the potential of these two stars. Surprisingly, they may both be shown up by Sean Hayes, as Nicholson’s personal assistant. He’s sarcastic, suave and unappreciated, and does everything to make the supporting role noticed. None of the three deserve nominations, but they all do what’s right for the picture.
Still, as happy and content as everyone is in the movie, you can’t help but hate it just a little. Director Rob Reiner continues his streak of achingly mediocre work, over-directing this movie’s likability to as extreme a point as is possible. The hopeful, happy tone he applies to the film will work for the pedestrian film-goer, and it won’t totally flop on the more experienced cineaste; but it’s still really easy to hate. It’s just so damn . . . likable. Reiner also needs to take some blame for some truly awful uses of CG. He tries to make the picture more grandiose with the use of flat graphics – like an almost 2-D rendering of the Taj Mahal – when he can just settle for some trickier camera angles or better photography. In what is little more than a personal drama, these CG shots are almost too fake to stomach today; so just imagine how doomed this movie is at the test of time because of something as unnecessary as a few special effects that it doesn’t need.
I wish I could slam the movie sometimes, and it’s certainly a flawed; but thanks to some likable performances and a cute premise, the sentimental side comes out on top.