Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bucket List

Just a note to those of you who might be reading Apocalypse Cinema on a regular basis. If you found this review through a search engine or clicked on it out of curiosity, please skip ahead to the next paragraph. That is where the actual review of The Bucket List begins. For those of you still with me here, I had a plan to review a horror movie a day throughout the month of October. Ill health has thrown me off schedule twice to the point I would have to go nearly into December in order to finish. Frankly, I have watched other kinds of movies since September that I want to write about . I do not feel like these horror movie reviews are all that popular anyway, so I am just going to move on. There will be plenty more horror movie reviews in the future, but for now, I want more variety in what I write about.

I want to like The Bucket List. I really do. But it just tries too hard to tug on my heartstrings with both the comedic and the tearjerker moments that I feel blatantly manipulated rather than going with the narrative flow. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are great, but it feels like they have taken characters they have played in the past and put them in this film. Nicholson is the grumpy misanthrope who learns to love and find jjoy in his life. Freeman is the wizened, articulate man who has been held back in life by the social realities of when he was born. Where have they played those respective characters before? In practically every movie they have been in over the last twenty years.

Nicholson plays hospital tycoon Edward Cole, a man who cuts costs by demanding every patient share a room. When he contracts cancer, he is forced to share a room with Carter Chambers (Freeman), a terminally ill mechanic who wanted to be a history professor, but family obligations and racism stood in his way. Their relationship is naturally hostile at first. Edward does not want to share a room. He is only doing so to avoid a public relations nightmare. But the two develop a fast friendship as they struggle through their treatment and eventual discovery they are both terminal.

When carter finds out how much time he has left, he crumples up the bucket list he was writing. Such is a list of things to do before one kicks the bucket. Edward finds the crumpled list and offers to bankroll the trip to cross items off. The two set out to see the world and do incredibly dangerous things like skydiving and race car driving. Edward even hires a hooker for Carter when he discovers he has only ever been with his wife. Carter declines and asks to return home, but requests Edward reconcile with his estranged daughter as a favor to him. Their first reunion does not go well.

Carter gets the terrible news his cancer has spread to his brain. He dies on the operating table during a voice over montage that also has Edward finally winning over his daughter. The problem for me is twofold. First, a Morgan Freeman voiceover is so been there, done that at this point. He has enhanced a number of great movies by narrating them, but The Bucket List is so maudlin, it feels like the powers that be were trying too hard for sincerity. Two, there is no dialogue heard between Edward, his daughter, and granddaughter. It is left up to the imagination to figure out how he patched things up. Sometimes, that works. Here, it does not.

All the pieces are there for a great movie, but they just do not fit together. The humor gets lost in the drama--these two are dying, for heaven’s sake--while the drama often gets lost in the exaggerated effort to make the audience sad. The Bucket List cannot decide exactly what it wants to be, so it winds up being a movie you feel bad for the few times you laughed and irritated at the scenes they could have flashed Cry now across the scene and been more subtle. I am curious whether cancer patients or their families have been offended by the film. That thought ran through my mind for the final two-thirds. I assume that is not what they wanted me to take away from it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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