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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE BUCKET LIST (article first published : 2008-01-30)

The screenplay of The Bucket List, a new film by director Rob Reiner, no getting away from it, is a little meagre and, in truth, rather schmaltzy and highly improbable. But so strong are the lead performances by two of Hollywood’s best, so easy and likeable is the chemistry between these seasoned Oscar-winners - Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman - that one can’t help but embrace and appreciate The Bucket List as an enjoyable comedy-drama.

Reiner, whose films have been pretty woeful in recent years, has here crafted a sweet and sincere story which, intended as a bit of a tearjerker liberally sprinkled with laughs, leaves one reminded of how quickly and easily one forgets to seek out the fun of life while swamped by the mundanities of the daily grind.

Jack Nicholson, as mischievous as ever, plays cantankerous billionaire and cancer patient Edward Cole, who strikes up a reluctant, but ever-strengthening, friendship with the man in the ward bed next to him. Cole doesn’t have a private ward because, as owner of the hospital, he has a policy insisting all patients double up, so it would look bad if he didn’t.

His ward-mate is car mechanic and general knowledge expert Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), who spends many weeks alongside Edward as the two undergo chemo treatment for their terminal disease.

When both discover they have only months to live, they agree to make use of Edward’s many millions to throw caution to the wind and live like they’ve never lived, seeing and doing all the things they write down on a list – must-dos before they kick the bucket. Hence the film’s title.

It’s no problem for Edward, who seems to have no family to speak of other than a reliable assistant with whom he trades insults. He’s played well by Sean Hayes, who is a lot more macho than he was in television’s Will & Grace. Carter, on the other hand, has to weigh up leaving behind his adult family and longtime wife (Beverly Todd), with whom all romantic spark has faded.

After some indecision, the buddies decide to go with their hearts and, while flying from one daring activity to another, from one country to the next – visiting Egypt’s pyramids, the French Riviera, the Himalayas, African game parks, India’s Taj Mahal and China’s Great Wall – they start to discuss and re-examine their lives, loves, losses and gains.

The film tries to offer some depth with its characters touching on issues such as faith and religion, but it’s very much incidental.

The Bucket List, contrived and manipulative and unlikely to win any awards, will best be remembered as a showy character piece, as a vehicle for the sparkle of its leads. View it as such and it will make for an entertaining matinee morsel. Rating 7/10 - Billy Suter




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