The Bucket List

Or Edward and Ray’s Big Adventure. Well, really Edward and Carter’s, but we’ll get to that later.
Morgan Freeman plays Carter Chambers, a sixty-something mechanic and grandfather who gets the news one day that he has cancer — I think lung cancer, but they don’t come right out and say that. Jack Nicholson plays Edward Cole, an incredibly wealthy businessman who, on about the same day, also gets the news that he has cancer. They find themselves sharing a room at the hospital, much to Edward’s displeasure, and bond over the agonies of chemotherapy and boredom, and so a quest is born.
I like Morgan Freeman — he’s sort of like the caring uncle everyone would like to have, and he seems like a smart and nice guy. Jack Nicholson, on the other hand, is really starting to frighten me. His head looks too big, and his face seems to be contorted into a permanent expression of something between thoughtless mischief and downright evil. At one point, he asks Morgan Freeman if he’s the devil, and I had the urge to yell, “Look who’s talking!” but quite frankly, that’s kind of the way the role was written, so he’s just about perfect for the part.
He has all the trappings of wealth — a private jet, a put-upon personal assistant (Sean Hayes, of “Will & Grace”) to handle all the business of living, and a little copper thing that apparently follows him everywhere to keep him generously supplied with Kopi Luwak, the most expensive beverage in the world. (But do NOT click that link before you see the film, or you’ll spoil one of the better jokes.) Carter is solidly middle-class, blessed with three kids and grandchildren, and a wife who adores him. He’s a voracious reader, and such a whiz at Jeopardy, they really should have made that part of their quest. He could’ve won a bundle.

I’m telling you, Jack Nicholson is totally up to something.

But the point is, they make a list of all the things they meant to do with their lives, and now find themselves with very little time in which to do them. They travel the world, quite literally, stopping in France, Africa, Tibet and Hong Kong that we see, and they must have had some kind of layover in England, because they had “Visit Stonehenge” crossed off. They see the Taj Mahal and (sort of) Mt. Everest. And they skydive. I don’t know why, but for some reason skydiving always shows up on every such list. Personally, dying or not, the only way I’m jumping out of a plane is if both wings have just fallen off, and maybe not even then. Give me Stonehenge or Macchu Picchu any day.
So it’s part travelogue, part comedy, and part drama, which is normally a pretty strange and unsettling sort of hybrid, but which works here, in the capable hands of two such veteran actors. And personal assistant Tommy (or Matthew, depending on who you ask, since Edward doesn’t like real names, apparently) does a great job too, holding his own beautifully in a very low-key way even with such esteemed competition. And yes, I’ll admit it — it made me sniffle. But I wasn’t the only person in the theatre doing that, at least. Thankfully, it never quite goes as far as smacking the audience over the head with its message, which I was really worried about, though the voiceovers come close. On the whole, though, it was very well done, and I feel a little bad now that I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing it.
We’ll go with three and three-quarter idols. The sarcasm and witty exchanges (which I know I always like) keep it from getting too soppy and sentimental, and they manage not to go too far the other direction also and turn it into a really dark comedy. Nothing at all against dark comedies, but that wouldn’t have been right here, I think. So don’t let Jack scare you away; you can go ahead and see this one without worrying about having nightmares. Well, not too many, at least…