April 15, 2008 -- “The Bucket List” is an entertaining tear jerker of a story about two old men facing the end of two very different lives. The film's two Academy Award winning stars, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have a lot to do with the film's appeal. Nicholson plays a billionaire, Edward Cole, who ends up in the same hospital room as a mechanic, Carter Chambers (Freeman). They become friends and decide to travel together to complete a bucket list (a list of things to do before they kick the bucket). Both have only a few months left to live.
Cole lives alone and can do as he pleases. Chambers, on the other hand, has a large family which opposes this trip. Chambers, for reasons of his own, decides to go anyway, even though he doesn't like Cole all that much. He has a need to get away from his life. The two embark on a round-the-world adventure, driving fast cars, riding a motorcycle atop the Great Wall in China, climbing mountains, climbing the great pyramids of Egypt, skydiving and lots of other things. Each man has a list, and they are quite different. Cole's list has things like getting a tattoo and skydiving, while Chambers' list has things like looking at something beautiful and doing something good for a stranger. Cole is an agnostic, while Chambers believes in God. Cole is pushy, adding stuff to the list and insisting that Chambers goes along. But when Chambers adds something to the list, that Cole reconcile with his estranged daughter, Cole rebels. Cole thinks the bucket list should have things to do which are fun. Chambers sees the bucket list as an opportunity to expand his horizons of experience.
The story is appealing but it has weaknesses. The reasons that Chambers gives for going on this trip are not well explained. His family finally accepts Cole, despite the fact that he was gone on the trip for a long time, and that is not explained well either. These are minor problems, though, and for the most part, the movie is appealing. Both Nicholson and Freeman give excellent performances. This performance is just another riff on Freeman's wise old guy character he's been playing for years. Nicholson's bad old guy is nothing new for him, either. A good supporting performance is given by Sean Hayes (“Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”) as Cole's long suffering assistant. I particularly like the ending of the film. It seemed appropriate. Each of the two old men gives something to the other from his wealth. Cole has a lot of money and gives Chambers experiences he would never have gotten otherwise. Chambers has a wealth of family love and he manages to give a little bit of that to Cole. This film rates a B.
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