Their last hurrah
Big stars can’t make this movie shine, writes Michael Dwyer
THE BUCKET LIST Directed by Rob Reiner. Starring Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd, Rob Morrow 12A cert, gen release, 97 min
AFTER his auspicious cinema debut in 1984 with This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner directed a succession of well-crafted entertainments over the next 10 years, moving smoothly between genres: comedy (When Harry Met Sally); thriller (Misery); drama (A Few Good Men, The American President), fantasy (The Princess Bride) and coming-of-age movies (The Sure Thing, Stand By Me). The past decade, however, has seen Reiner reduced to such piffle as The Story of Us and the illadvised spin-off from The Graduate, Rumor Has It.
His new movie, The Bucket List, does not represent a return to form.
Doubling as narrator, Morgan Freeman applies his sonorous tones and autopilot gravitas over the opening in a vain attempt to invest some significance into the wispy yarn that unfolds.
Freeman plays Carter, a garage mechanic whose youthful ambition to become a history professor went unrealised because of family responsibilities.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Carter finds himself sharing a hospital room with Edward (Jack Nicholson), a self-made billionaire who, after four failed marriages, has discovered that money can’t buy him love.
Justin Zackham’s screenplay contrives to throw the two men together because Edward, who owns the hospital, imposed the rule whereby there are two patients to each room, with no exceptions. Edward himself resents having to comply with this, but it never occurs to him that, with all his millions, he could choose any hospital he wanted.
If he did, of course, the movie could not be formed as another variation on the “odd couple” formula, whereby contrasting characters overcome an initial mutual antipathy to bond warmly as soulmates. Deciding that life’s too short, and getting very short for both of them, Edward and Carter escape into the outside world to realise unfulfilled ambitions.
The movie takes its title from Carter’s agenda of things he wants do before he kicks the bucket, as he puts it, and these two men, who have nothing to lose anymore, engage in skydiving, racing vintage cars, and touring the world in Edward’s private plane to see the Taj Mahal, Everest, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China. This travelogue sequence is so unconvincingly computergenerated that the actors appear never to have left the studio.
There is an evident chemistry between the charismatic co-stars, and there are some sparks in their banter, which sounds ad-libbed, but neither Nicholson nor Freeman can disguise the uninspired nature of Zackham’s material and its phoney epiphanies, to which Reiner usefully could have applied some of the irreverence he brought to Spinal Tap.
film Slumpy old men: Jack and Morgan