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The Bucket List

Kicking the Bucket

Nothing can bring two distinctly dissimilar individuals together quite like imminent death. Or so The Bucket List would seem to suggest. A disgustingly wealthy, cantankerous Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) finds himself stricken with terminal cancer and laid up in a hospital bed next to a comparatively poor auto mechanic, Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). Rather than resign themselves to their ultimate demise, this odd couple decides to craft a list of all the things theyíd like to do before they die...and set out to do them.

Director Rob Reiner wisely chose two "elder statesmen" in Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman for the roles of Edward and Carter. These are two men who are at the stage of their lives where they are not far away from confronting the kinds of questions Edward and Carter have to tackle. Itís not much of a stretch to imagine both men contemplating what the sum of their lives will be at the end of the day.

We first meet Carter, who, in addition to being an auto mechanic, has a mind like a steel trap, recalling who invented the radio, the five presidents who had a last name starting with an "H", and a litany of other random historical minutiae. Carterís gift for recalling historical minutiae rivals that of Rosie Perezís character from White Men Canít Jump. Yes, Carter is also a killer at "Jeopardy".

Next up is Edward who seemingly has more money than God and heís not lacking in the power department either. Edward flaunts convention because heís earned the right to, given what heís accomplished. His devil-may-care attitude suits him fine, but has contributed to a woefully short list of friends and loved onesÖin stark contrast to the married Carter who may not have a lot of cash, but has plenty of love in his life.

Thus begins the journey for these two soon to be dirtnappers who elect to go out with a bang rather than a whisper. From skydiving to racing Shelby Mustangs, these two methodically cross items off "the bucket list" as their time grows shorter and shorter. Each escapade is usually punctuated with a conversation between the two in which we learn a bit more about each man. Not surprisingly, Carter was supposed to be a history professor and Edward has a daughter from whom heís estranged.

While itís pretty clear where all of this is going, Nicholson and Freeman prevent The Bucket List from veering too far into the terrain of the saccharine and the overwrought. Perhaps this is because it wasnít too much of a stretch for these two aging thespians to identify with the material or perhaps director Rob Reiner had something to do with this. At any rate, it works for the most part.

The Bucket List is a film that should resonate for just about anyone who has ever contemplated their own mortality. So, if youíre between the ages of about 5 and 105, you can likely find something to connect with in this film. However, itís a bit tough to fully buy that Edward and Carter would form such a close connection given their markedly different backgrounds and thereís no message here thatís really revelatory. That being said, the bucketís not entirely empty.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars