A dramedy working on a very simple premise and favoring humor and poignant conversations over weepy developments, “The Bucket List” is a heartfelt, wickedly funny film about two dying men who travel the world to discover the joy in their lives. Choosing to treat its serious theme on the lighter side may not inspire thorough philosophical introspection about mortality, but it can still make you re-examine your life priorities.
This motion picture fills its bucket with enormous skill and presence through its two leads. It get undoubtedly elevated by the performances of two acting powerhouses: the angry and antic Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and the laid back and serene Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.
The story generates enough humor and drama about two terminally ill men who heads off outdoors for a trip around the world and explore a wish list of to-do’s before they die. They go on a round-the-world junket towards their dream places including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mount Everest, and the Great Wall of China. They indulge and splurge with an Abercrombie and Kent luxury travel with “Hemingway-style” tents complete with lush carpets, flush toilets and lavish beds. They go sky diving in Perris Valley in Los Angeles. They experience the best cars to ever drive including a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car in the California Speedway in Fontana.
Director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too sweet taste of sentimentality by allowing the two acting heavyweights to coast through their characters without having to do much heavy hitting. Their companionable roles transcend the typical material into a reasonably entertaining venture. Their gracefully charismatic portrayals celebrate an enthralling character study about the universal things that really matter in life. Their poignant exchanges elevate the movie to the point that you would probably ignore the contrivances of the narrative and just go with the flow as the two actors squeeze the right emotions in the story. Indeed, their excellent chemistry, along with the dialogue that is hilarious even while bordering on the heartbreaking, goes a long way towards a decent and reasonable entertainment.
The picture gets treated very lightly, which is effectively carried out by the inimitable techniques of Nicholson and Freeman. Nicholson’s Edward Cole proudly wears a billionaire hospital owner character who is filled with sarcasm and cynicism. Freeman’s Carter Chambers accentuates his knack for worldly, wise, and good-natured characters offering homespun bits of wisdom at every turn. Sean Hayes as Thomas adds a dose of fun to the interactions of Edward and Carter. From the comedy parts to the strikingly dramatic moments (mainly the scenes of Edward and Carter, Carter and his wife Virginia played by Beverly Todd, and Edward and his estranged daughter and granddaughter), the film becomes meaningful and affecting.
“The Bucket List” flows naturally. It becomes a sort of an escapist movie minus the ultimate happy ending. Amidst the deaths, it does not exude itself as a tragic film. There are the expected mortality issues, and yet, what really fills the tale is the human companionship that makes life worth living. Despite some emotional dips and loads of schmaltz especially by its end, this works as an enthralling actor’s movie.