First off let me state that I have never been a Jack Nicholson fan. I’ve tolerated him in most movies and, to me at least, his acting seems to be stereo-typed where he always plays the same type character roles. So, having seen him once, you’ve seen him in everything (my opinion). On the other hand, I’ve always liked Morgan Freeman, ever since watching him with my kids when he was on The Electric Company. (Now that dates me!). So, I went into THE BUCKET LIST with mixed feelings, but the premise was enough to make me want to go.
The story is about two men, from totally different ends of life, society and perspective, who are forced to room together in a hospital cancer ward for a very long period of time while. Edward Cole, played by Jack Nicholson, is a billionaire self-made executive and Carter Chambers, played by Morgan Freeman, is a working class mechanic who never attained his real desire to be a history teacher how keeps sharp by knowing all the answers to all the Jeopardy questions ever written. Both are suffering with terminal cancer. This is the only thing they have in common. They eventually become friends and come up with a “Bucket List” of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket”.
The list contains such items (that are supposed to ring your heart and mind with the wonders of the human spirit – right!) as skydiving, racing in a Mustang 350 GT, getting a tattoo, visit the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Rome, Africa, laugh until you cry, see something majestic (whatever that really means), help a complete stranger for the good … you get the picture.
So, our two “heroes” set off to fulfill the list mainly due to Edward’s unlimited funds and desire to go out with a bang. This is what I see as the “typical” stereo-typed Nicholson role. It is who he plays all the time (granted, I haven’t see all his films), but it’s what I have come to expect from his roles. Carter decides to go with him and as they strut off around the world, they become the best of friends.
At this point, and very early on in the film I might add, is where I start to feel uncomfortable. Here is Carter, married for 46+ years, a devoted husband, father and grandfather, deciding to ignore his family, especially his wife who pleads for him not to go, and doing the most selfish act in his life. It doesn’t make sense to me and it is out of character for the Carter we learn about to this point. Now a lot of “new agers” will say, “What’s wrong with him doing all the things he always wanted to do but never had the chance to?” to which I would reply, and what about his wife’s dreams that she will never have fulfilled? (Believe me, folks, this is my very, very short answer!)
This movie was directed by Rob “Meathead” Reiner, who I believe wanted this film to be a comedy based on the adventures of these two guys as they run around the world doing their bucket list, having funny adventures, a few laughs and then, realizing who they are, come to grips with the real meaning of life. But, mainly, this was to be a comedy. I respect Rob and he has done a lot of really great stuff in the past, but, I think with this one he misses the bucket. There are some really funny moments with Edward and Carter seeing the world, but nothing that wasn’t done before or even unexpected. It just didn’t have what it needed to tell the story. I fear it was the writing and directing more than the acting.
I found the acting generally good, with Jack playing the Jack role and Morgan playing … well, the Morgan role, if you get my drift here. There is nothing too new here. At this point I will give Jack a plus-up. Yes, me, giving Jack Nicholson a plus-up. I liked the sincerity that he played in the end on the film … how he changed. I found this very convincing and well done, much to my surprise. I felt that I could identify with both the Edward Cole's that he played in the film. But, alas, it was too little, too late.