Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Bucket List: Movie Review

The golden boys of Hollywood come together for this hilarious and touching film that takes the subject of "things to do before you die" to the limit. Morgan Freeman (Driving Ms. Daisy, Invictus) stars as Carter Chambers, an auto-mechanic and die-hard Jeopardy fan, whose diagnosis of terminal cancer has landed him in a hospital room beside Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson), a billionaire executive with an insatiable love for women, wine, women, kopi luwak, and women. When Edward is given six months to live, Carter is prompted to write "The Bucket List," a metaphorical list of things to do before he kicks the bucket. Edward, however, has something else in mind - a trip around the world that turns all of Carter's dreams into reality and pushes the boundary of the imagination to the ends of the earth. After a joy ride in a Shelby Mustang, a stint at sky diving, a safari in Africa, and a motor cycle trip on the Great Wall of China, Carter is gripped by the realization that he has yet to embrace the greatest wonder of his existence - the family that awaits him in the home where his patient and loving wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd) is eager for his return. Carter is not the only one with unfinished business, however. A reluctant Edward must swallow his fear and wise-guy attitude to reconcile with the daughter who disowned him years ago. Such is the nature of an unlikely friendship between two souls whose any moment could be their last, but whose every moment is the first on the adventure of a lifetime.

Of the voices in film and television that have been labeled "distinct," Morgan Freeman's ranks with James Earl Jones (a.k.a. "the mellifluous) and Don LaFontaine, whose talent was such that the obscure title "that voice from the movies" could not have been more definite. Freeman's crisp and authoritative sotto voce is that of a story teller, a voice we imagine to be in the range of Aesop or Homer in a time when nomadic bards were the rock stars of their day. Freeman has narrated such critically acclaimed films as The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, and The March of the Penguins. In The Bucket List, Freeman's subtle and soothing narration is the iron thread which ties together the mind-blowing antics of Hollywood funny-man, Jack Nicholson. Despite an IV and patient gown (which calls up terms that are less endearing) Nicholson is certainly the best-looking octogenarian passed off by the industry since Estelle Getty. The only thing old about his portrayal of Edward Cole is the trite execution of outlandish comedy. A death-defying jump from an airplane and a joy ride in a Mustang draw disappointed sighs of "blah" rather than warm laughs. Audiences will be more amused to hear Morgan Freeman scream like a skinny teen from a horror film, not to mention learning that the world's rarest and most expensive beverage is made from animal crap.

Beverly Todd (Lean on Me, Crash) gives a memorable performance as Carter's determined and steadfast wife, Virginia. Sean Hayes (Will and Grace, The Cat in the Hat), however, is decidedly bland and out of place as Matthew, Edward's assistant (whom he calls Thomas because Matthew is "too biblical"). Hayes's most notable scenes take place in the beginning and end of the film, when viewers have no idea as to his identity or his purpose to the main plot. Nevertheless, the scenes give the film a round-circle feel, a fitting aspect for a piece on the subject of life. That death is merely a pit-stop and life a mere circuit on which beginning and end are one and the same are the main themes of this contemplative film that will charm viewers to live life to it's fullest, for "everyone is everyone" and years "like smoke through a key-hole."

The Bucket List

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