Old legends in fine form

2008-01-28 00:00

BEFORE a person “kicks the bucket”, there are a number of things he or she would like to do. In this film, it’s called a “Bucket List”. The list includes (among other things) skydiving, helping a complete stranger, kissing the most beautiful girl in the world and witnessing something truly majestic. There are a whole lot of other things as well.

Morgan Freeman plays Carter Chambers, a family man and trivia guru who works as a motor mechanic. Jack Nicholson plays billionaire Edward Cole, a loner who has made his fortune privatising hospitals. Both have cancer. It’s in their shared hospital ward that their friendship begins, before the doctor informs them that the chemotherapy hasn’t worked and they have to face the inevitable. They decide to “go out with some balls”, and put together their own Bucket List, which is pretty much a whirlwind trip around the world.

Naturally, the film gravitates towards the obvious questions of life and death, and inevitably ends up as a film with plenty of dialogue. That’s pretty much what director Rob Reiner does with his films, some of which work well (When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride), some are okay (Rumor Has It) and some flop (The Story of Us). The Bucket List seems a bit clumsy in his hands though. The script is familiarly formulaic — there’s the comedy, the adventure, the inevitable betrayal and then the reunion in the friendship. But there are enough small surprises along the way to make it interesting enough.

It is Freeman and Nicholson who sell this movie. The legends work well together. One gets the feeling in parts of the film that they are just being themselves rather than acting. That’s how good they are. Nicholson garners most of the laughs, but it is both actors’ fantastic rapport that drives the film. The director owes them a lot. ****

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