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BUCKET LIST, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) find themselves unexpectedly sharing a room in a hospital - one in Cole's empire where the policy is two beds to a room. The two men learn they now have one thing in common: they don't have long to live. In this initially forced companionship, Chambers begins to compile a list of things they had both long wanted to do before they kick the bucket - and Cole is adamant to execute the wish list, which ranges from 'witnessing something majestic' to sky diving and kissing the most beautiful girl in the world. These two virtual strangers check themselves out of the hospital - against the wishes of Chambers' wife Virginia (Beverly Todd) - to hit the road on a trip from the Taj Mahal to the Serengeti, the finest restaurants to the seediest tattoo parlors in a life affirming dash.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The concept is artificial from start to finish, but it promises some fun with two great actors who can make something out of nothing. Which is what they do, but even they can't overcome the screenplay's dodgy and underdeveloped ideas. Yes it's often fun, but mostly because Jack is always fun to watch and Morgan Freeman delivers such credibility. Also good fun is Sean Hayes' characterisation of Cole's undervalued but uber-effective PA, Thomas, a sardonic figure used as a device to reflect Cole's character (its flawed parts, that is).

The script tries hard to develop some meaningful insights out of an escapist romp with marginal success, giving Freeman's Carter Chambers the role of the moral guardian, while the billionaire is there to show how shallow it is to have corporate success. Still, it's Cole's money that pays for their global indulgence. The trouble is the characters are too shallow and don't ever engage us on the deep level that would make their journey moving, dramatic, jolting and rewarding for us. Chambers, who reveals a broad knowledge base and an early desire to be a history professor hijacked by the reality of life, is articulate, wise and upright. Cole is a blustering buffoonish and boorish businessman with a string of ex wives and a bad temper. In the hands of lesser actors, these cardboards would never have to come life at all.

There are some well worked scenes, especially in the hospital before and during their bonding, but the whirlwind jaunt around the world is perfunctory and glib, like the shopping list that it is. The more profound items on the list get crossed of rather late in the film's attempt to tug our heartstrings. Not even Virginia (Beverly Todd), the non-plussed wife who is left behind, can do that, the way she is written. But despite its flaws, the film is endearing and engaging - enough for a brief escape, anyway.

Review by Louise Keller:
This rather special film is one about mortality and immortality and guarantees both laughter and tears. Of course, the combination of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman is special in itself, and these two extraordinary actors handle the sensitive and often confronting issue of death with the compassion and flair you might expect. Fulfillment and fun are the objectives of the film title's wish list of trivial and non-trivial items, scribbled by the two terminally diagnosed men on a piece of yellow lined paper. From profound sadness to immeasurable joy, the film takes us on a precarious journey reminding us to make each moment count.

Jack Nicholson's Edward Cole and Morgan Freeman's Carter Chambers are like chalk and cheese. Edward is the grumpy old man who has everything money can buy except love. Even the relationship he shares with his ever-present assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes) is one of mutual contempt. Carter is the hard-working, devoted family man who philosophically dreams of witnessing 'something majestic' (like the Himalayas). Playing cards and sharing the medical traumas are the common bonds shared in the hospital room. It is their mortality that prompts them to live the rest of their life to the fullest.

Sky diving, racing mustangs, caviar in the South of France, an African Safari and jetting over the Polar Cap are relatively easy to achieve, with the use of Edward's private jet and unlimited bank account. It is a trip of contrasts, and I love the scene when Edward and Carter stroll leisurely before the extraordinary beauty of the Taj Mahal, pragmatically discussing logic and practicality of burial conventions.

But it is the matters of the heart and conscience that are much harder to face and conquer. There are challenges for both men and we are more than satisfied by the outcome. Director Rob Reiner is a brave man to breathe life into Justin Zackham's script. It is not easy to find the right tone when countering life and death issues and many have stumbled. Nicholson and Freeman are in strapping fine form; mature audiences will savour the journey.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

BUCKET LIST, THE (M)
(US, 2007)

CAST: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd, Rob Morrow, Serena Reener

PRODUCER: Alan Greisman, Neil Meron, Rob Reiner, Craig Zadan

DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner

SCRIPT: Justin Zackham

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwartzman

EDITOR: Robert Leighton

MUSIC: Marc Shaiman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2008







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