The Bucket List - Movie Review


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The Bucket List

The Bucket List is a perfectly fine movie. It is fine in the sense that I wouldn't be opposed to showing it to my grand-parents, although, still, I would have to watch it fully expecting them to take offense to something in it. Then again, I suppose that's more of a reflection of their taste than the film's actual quality. Because really, at it's heart, the Bucket List is a sweet movie. The trailer does a fine job of summing it up, and in the words of a college kid it's "That movie about old people who make a list of stuff they want to do before they die." Of course, the story is a little more fleshed out than that, but the execution is about on par with that description.

For the purpose of this review, it's important to note that the two leads are Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two well versed and experienced actors who are also, well, growing older in real life. Morgan Freeman, who has been playing the same exact character of an older and wiser man as long as he has walked this earth, makes the startling decision to play the same exact character in this film too, which makes things interesting if you pretend you're watching Bruce Almighty 3, Shawshank Returns, or Deep Blue Sea part II (which actually starred Samuel L. Jackson). Past performance shows, the role works for him. He genuinely captures a vast array of emotions and draws you in with his realistic sensibilities. Jack Nicholson of course does the same, and also plays the same character you've seen before in films circulated on TNT. What you see in the Bucket List, character wise, is what you get, and that is not a bad thing at all. In fact, that makes the movie seem very real and authentic. Authenticity is key, and while the performers do what they can, the rest of the film falters in achieving this attribute.

The Bucket List is really an extraordinary story about extraordinary characters doing extraordinary things. What is amazing about it is that these aren't superheros, these are just two old men who have a dream. The film follows them as they travel to the Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Italy, France, the Great Wall of China, and numerous other landmarks. These are notoriously the most beautiful places in the entire world. So I hope you understand my disappointment when I note that the entire film was made within the state of California.
Yeah, the sky diving, the motorcycling, the safari in Africa, those are all stunt guys, modern day superhero's who are paid to take risks and then have their faces digitally replaced by Jack and Morgan. Who can blame them? I don't honestly expect Morgan Freeman to jump out of an airplane, but for a story about two normal joes doing something magnificent there's a whole lot of sitting down time. In fact, it seems they go to all these landmarks just to have a pleasant dinner on top of them. These dinners, by the way, are all superimposed in front of a backdrop, one of which my friend swears "the waves aren't moving in the background." The special effects work well and are often seemless, for the most part, yet they tend to aggravatingly play the viewer for a fool by inter-cutting Morgan Freeman pointing off screen, saying "Hey look over there!" And then splicing in an old video from the archives of National Geographic wild life. It's cheap and ineffective, for us youngsters at least.

So here's my problem with The Bucket List, for a film aimed at a more intellectual and older crowd, the movie itself seems to pander to that audience in the same way a Saturday morning film might pander to children. My cynical self has this undeniable feeling that this movie is nothing more than fodder for an older audience which Hollywood is realizing is bigger than they expected. The problems this movie has could have been fixed if the writer had simply realized the logical physical limitations placed on it and bravely encountered those head on. I'm not interested in the man who made it back from the top of Everest, I'm fascinated by the man who got stuck halfway. Limitations and struggles make men what they are and remain as the basis of the human condition. The elimination of those limitations, in this case by means of digital effects, renders the struggle meaningless.

The Bucket List is a nice and interesting movie and I hope is is successful, but to be honest, it is subject to laziness. Rent it.

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