Monday, January 07, 2008

"Bucket List" is very funny and sincere

My freelance review:
The new Rob Reiner film, The Bucket List, offers a lot of laughter (mostly courtesy of Jack Nicholson) and touching human drama. The film opens Friday; this is an early review.

Nicholson plays the typical Nicholson character, an over-the-top, over-confident, sarcastic soul. This time he's an extravagant corporate billionaire, always more focused on making money than his deeper needs. Suddenly diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and as the owner of a chain of hospitals known for "two patients to every room," he finds himself sharing a hospital room with a down-to-earth fellow incurable cancer patient, played by Morgan Freeman.

The chemistry between these two Academy Award-winning actors is substantial. As the story plays out, Freeman's character has a list of things he wants to do before he dies (his "list" of things to do before he kicks the "bucket") and Nicholson's character has the dough -- and before long the desire -- to finance the travels.

What basically follows is a male-bonding, buddy road movie, complete with plenty of laughs and inspirational moments.

It's challenging in films like The Bucket List to keep the overall tone sincere and believable, given characters as extreme as Nicholson's and a storyline that is a bit far-fetched. Fortunately, though, this film keeps it head above water and swims beautifully. Kudos to writer Justin Zackham for keeping the characters well-rounded and for not dismissing some of the supporting characters, such as Freeman's character's wife, who stands by as her dying husband leaves her and her children to travel with a stranger. Played by Beverly Todd, she brings a nice touch to the film.

One other nice touch is the beautiful original song, Say, by John Mayer.

Director Reiner delivers a really good film here. The Bucket List should be a big (and well-deserved!) crowd pleaser.

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