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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: The Bucket List

The Bucket List is quite unlike any other film that I have ever seen before. What I really mean by this, however, is that it's a feel-good movie. I have never in my own memory watched or reviewed a feel-good movie. I had heard of The Bucket List before, and thought that it sounded interesting. My curiosity was partially piqued due to the two leads, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who had previously starred as the Joker in Batman '89 and Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight Saga, respectively. So, here we have two A-list actors who both have experience acting in Batman films, starring together in a feel-good movie. The question, however, is "Does this movie 'feel good' at all, and should it?"

The basic premise of the movie is that two old, terminally ill men, a rich guy named Edward Cole (Nicholson) and a history buff auto mechanic named Carter Chambers (Freeman) wind up in the same hospital room, become friends, and decide to use their limited remaining time to go around the world doing cool and fun stuff. Inspired by Carter's "bucket list," Edward uses his insurmountable resources to ferry him and Carter everywhere from some place in the desert to the Himalayas to Hong Kong. In between skydiving and camping out in the savannah, Edward and Carter talk about weighty subjects such as family and the meaning of life.

First and foremost, I want to be clear that even though this movie was treated pretty roughly by the critics, including the late Roger Ebert, I actually liked it a lot. It was funny, well acted, and actually pretty touching. I understand that Mr. Ebert, who also suffers from cancer, had complaints about the realism of the movie, such as hospitals generally making a lot of money offering private rooms for a fee, or Carter's wife being "remarkably restrained" at him going gallivanting around the world, and the unfortunate implications of Freeman, a black actor, spending all these movies (such as The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby) praising characters portrayed by white actors, or the apparently selfish nature of Edward's entirely selfless attempt to spend time enjoying life with a good friend. I admit that the former accusation is definitely well-founded, though I must point out that one does not watch a feel-good movie for the tight plot. In addition, there is actually a great scene where Nicholson's character does exactly what Mr. Ebert says never happens in the movie: He praises Freeman's character. I admit that the movie probably isn't the best depiction of terminal illness around, but not every movie can be The Fault in our Stars.

Mr. Ebert's admittedly credible and esteemed opinions aside, I still found this movie enjoyable, if not particularly memorable. The gags are enough to make you double over with laughter, laughing out loud, uproariously, and gladly. Nicholson and Freeman put on their best performances here, being great foils to each other, with a dynamic which is both comedic and dramatic. In fact, every actor is noteworthy in this film. I can't think of single one that did a sub-par job. And like any feel-good movie, it actually succeeds in making the viewer feel good. I don't doubt Mr. Ebert's assertions that the movie doesn't portray cancer as realistically as is could have, but I wouldn't call in insensitive. It would only be insensitive if the movie made a joke out of the issue, the movie actually making cancer the crux of the film's dramatic side.

On the whole, The Bucket List isn't exactly worthy of Frank Capra or Martin Scorsese, but it does succeed in what it sets out to do: Present an uplifting, tear-worthy flick that is easily likeable and really funny. I must warn, however, that there is a smattering of severe expletives (Edward is the main offender), one obscene gesture, and some sexual innuendo. This may be a real good feel-good movie, but I wouldn't advise that you watch it with your kids. For those of you out there who have an opinion on this sort of thing and have seen The Bucket List, what do you think of the cancer issue? Was it too lighthearted? What do you think? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.

RATING: 7.5/10

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