The Bucket List, 12A
Smile for the camera, and say cheesy: Jack and Morgan may be on autopilot, but Julie really knows how to fly
Sunday 17 February 2008
Magazines are always filling their pages with morbid "Things To Do/Places To See/Movies To See Before You Die" lists, but it's assumed that the "dying" part is rhetorical. Not for Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in Rob Reiner's latest film, The Bucket List. Nicholson plays a cocksure, Jack Nicholsonish playboy who's amassed a fortune by running hospitals as cheaply as he can. Apparently, the way to make a killing in healthcare is to abide by the slogan: "Two patients to a room! No exceptions!". But this policy comes back to haunt him when he's struck down by a brain tumour himself and, for PR reasons, he has to share a room with Freeman, a car mechanic who always wanted to be a history professor. Freeman is seen smoking the first time we see him, and so, sure enough, he learns that he has cancer in that very same scene.
Luckily, both men have "movie cancer", that rare strain of the disease which doesn't have any symptoms. Less luckily, they're both told that they have no more than a year to live, which prompts Freeman to write a "bucket list" of things he'd like to do before he kicks the bucket. "Cutesy," grunts Nicholson. But he's grown fond of his room-mate, so he adds a few Things To Do of his own, and persuades Freeman that they should go through the bucket list together, with Nicholson picking up the tab.
With a premise like that, it's amazing how bland their goals are. Freeman goes for the vaguely spiritual likes of, "witness something majestic", and, "help a stranger" – which leads you to ask why he hasn't done so already – while Nicholson roughs out a sort of overgrown stag trip, with sky-diving and getting a tattoo as his priorities. Neither man hits on a single idiosyncratic or complicated ambition, which means that every time Nicholson crosses a line off the crumpled sheet of legal notepad paper, viewers will recall the much funnier and more distinctive TV comedy My Name is Earl.
It's more of an itinerary than a Bucket List. By making use of Nicholson's private jet and his right-hand man, Sean Hayes, the new friends fly around the world, ticking off the pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China – all of which serve as picturesque backdrops for the odd couple's chats, but none of which affects them in any way. When you've got a billion dollars at your disposal, and a Jeeves to take care of your travel arrangements, nothing untoward is going to happen to you, which doesn't make for a very exciting film. The poster might claim that The Bucket List is about finding joy, but it's actually about finding a very wealthy buddy and ignoring your carbon footprint.
Instead of having a plot, the film relies on our keenness to see the charismatic leading men play their signature roles for the umpteenth time. Nicholson is on firecracker form as his usual devil-may-care rake, and Freeman is his patented avuncular sage, dispensing bartender platitudes, quoting his "pastor", and doling out the same folksy voice-over as he has in most of his films since The Shawshank Redemption. The two personae spark off each other effectively, but you could say that the film comes down to a battle for dominance between them. Is the story going to side with Nicholson, the bad influence? Or is it going to take its cues from Freeman's cosy conservatism? Should it be a wild ride or an easy stroll? A Scotch or an Ovaltine? Alas, Reiner follows Freeman's path, and a comedy about living life to the full becomes a sentimental sermon about saying grace before dinner. It's not going to be on many people's "Films To See Before You Die" lists.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures