Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews




picture - The Bucket ListMovie Review

by Kevin Bowen

published January 18, 2008


The Bucket List

rated PG-13

now playing nationwide


My cup of (dis-) spirits just can’t seem to runneth over for The Bucket List.


While some critics are attacking the movie as if loaded on bran fiber, I feel like reaching for the Metamucil. Sorry. My joints are simply too wobbly for bashing too often. I have better things to defile with my still youthful vinegar.


The Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman six-months-to-live vehicle is many negative things – smirking, unrealistic, short on insight. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a fairly harmless piece of wish fulfillment for the Bingo set. There are more pressing things to hate.  You have to choose your battles.


The movie revolves around a friendship developed by two cancer patients. Nicholson plays Charlie, a wealthy loner and health care magnate. He owns the hospital in which he rests. The staff has stuck him, grumpily, with an unwanted roommate. That would be Freeman’s Carter, a mechanic with a fondness for history and fortune-cookie wisdom from other cultures.


The tokens of friendship here are chemotherapy, vomiting, and gin rummy. When both men are stamped with an expiration date, they write down all the things they want to do before they kick the bucket. Then they set out across the globe – Hong Kong, the Pyramids, the Himalayas – to do them.  


Most films starring Nicholson nowadays become a referendum on his personality. He doesn’t want to be a product of his environment, he explains in The Departed. He wants the environment to be a “product of me.” That can be said for his acting style, such as it remains. Still, Nicholson’s doing-jigsaws-in-the-tower persona successfully lowers expectations. When he doesn’t break out in some random act of cosmic insanity, we’re surprised, because we’ve forgotten he’s a human being. Probably.


Freeman contributes his deep voice, easy manner, and not much else. If he puts forth only mild energy, perhaps he’s taking the cue from the film’s stodgy stunts. For instance, a classic-car race around an oval makes you worry more about their dentures than their bodies.


The film’s can-do, can’t-take-it-with-you spirit, however contrived, is fairly amiable. But it lacks a darker side and spiritual depth.  It’s a movie about mortality that has only lip service for God and death.  Those are the missing elements that would have turned this geriatric tourist trap into the long, strange trip that it should have been.  


kevinbowen @




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