The Bucket List

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The Bucket List
Review (3/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

The question of human mortality has been the subject of abstract and philosophical discussion since time immemorial. I doubt that there are any among us who have not pondered when, where and how we will go, and what will await us beyond the bounds of our earthly existence. Men and women have fought and died defending their beliefs about the purpose and the meaning of human life. How ironic it is that the only people who can answer that question with absolute accuracy are no longer with us.

I do not propose in this small space to expound upon my thoughts about the meaning of life and our purpose in the universe. It would be impossible to do justice to the subject. How unfortunate that someone did not share that advice with director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Justin Zackham before they tried to offer their condensed views on the meaning of life in ?The Bucket List?.

?The Bucket List? tells the story of Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), two men who form an unlikely friendship while staring death in face in a cancer ward of a hospital owed by Cole. After being informed that they are standing at the precipice of the great beyond, they decide to compose, ?The Bucket List? - a ?to do? list of things that they would like to accomplish before they ?kick the bucket?. Fortunately for them, Edward has amassed a vast fortune during his life, and, since he has no life of his own, he is prepared to spend his money on a whirlwind tour of the far reaches of the earth with Carter, much to the chagrin of Carter's distraught wife.

In theory, ?The Bucket List? was a good idea. The examination of what any of us would do knowing we had less than a year to live and an unlimited budget poses some interesting philosophical questions about our priorities and our place in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunately, ?The Bucket List? elects to veer from the path of philosophical debate and instead becomes mired in the cinematic version of purgatory. It is a film that could have gone out with a ?bang?, but instead dies a slow, painful death onscreen.

It is difficult to choose which aspect of this film places the final nail in its coffin. The only way to truly describe its shortfalls would be to take a tour of Rob Reiner's good films and to distinguish this from them.

?The Bucket List? could have been ?Stand By Me? - a funny, poignant snapshot of a moment in people's lives before their existence as they know it changes forever, but it is not. Instead, it is a film that cannot decide whether it is a comedy or a light drama, and in the process fails miserably at both.

?The Bucket List? could have been ?When Harry Met Sally? - a witty ?talking film? about how two very different men staring into the great abyss come to realize that, in the end, we are all essentially the same, but it is not. Instead, it is plagued by cliched, preachy dialogue that does a complete disservice to its subject-matter.

?The Bucket List? could have been ?Misery? - a morbid cautionary tale brought to life through award-calibre acting performances, but it is not. Instead, we are teased with mere fleeting glimpses of the acting talent that have made Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson two of the finest actors of their generation. They are good, but we are left wanting more because we know that they could have been great.

For me, the unfulfilled promise of ?The Bucket List? was epitomized by its choice of filming locations. During the film, Edward and Carter travel to France, to an African safari, to the Taj Mahal, to the Egyptian pyramids, to the Himalayan mountains. In real life, Morgan and Jack sat in front of a green screen on a Hollywood set while one of the worst examples of computer-generated special effects was projected behind them. It reminded me of those old black-and-white films in which people are shown travelling in a car while the same scenery flashes continuously behind them in the rear window. That is ?The Bucket List? - a film that had all the potential to be the ?real thing? but which instead felt like a cheap imitation.

Collectively, Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson and Rob Reiner have made films that should be on everyone's cinematic ?Bucket List? - Freeman's Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Million Dollar Baby; Nicholson's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, Chinatown, Easy Rider, As Good As It Gets; Reiner's The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, Misery, When Harry Met Sally. Collaboratively, they have made a film that, rather than earning a place on the list, instead deserves to go directly into the bucket.

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