I have to chuckle. I was reading through IMDB in preparation for writing this review and stumbled upon this trivial jewel..."Justin Zackham finished the script in just two weeks."
Yep, it shows.
"The Bucket List" is a film so ludicrously scripted by Zackham that I half expected to hear Tim McGraw's heartfelt, soaring vocals from "Live Like You Were Dying" accompanying virtually every heartfelt, inspirational, "rah rah" to life scene.
Of course, Tim McGraw may have actually been there at some point. In all honesty, I numbed out on this sugar-coated buddy flick by at least the halfway mark.
The key problem is that Zackham's script and Rob Reiner's direction focus the attention squarely on the wrong character, Edward (Jack Nicholson), a too rich for his own good hospital executive whose corporate policy of "two beds to a room, no exception" comes back to bite him in the ass when he's diagnosed with cancer and finds himself sharing a room with Carter (Morgan Freeman), a working class schlub in the same predicament.
It's rather amazing to me that at no time during the making of the film did someone look at the goings on and say "We need to shift direction here."
But, no, for some unfathomable reason Reiner and Zackham focus their attention on the self-centered, annoying and impulsive Edward.
This poor focus is magnified by the fact that Freeman, you gotta love him, manages to give a downright solid performance as Carter, whose gratitude for the life lessons learned from Edward ring as wholly false despite Freeman's gift for sincerity. Nicholson, on the other hand, offers up his worst performance in years by going over-the-top as Edward supposedly plays escort to he and Carter's "bucket list" of things to do before they die of cancer.
The film's production values are laughably average, especially when the boys head off on their global journey towards fulfillment to such places as the Pyramids, Indiana, Hong Kong, the Himalayas. The special effects, because lord knows the film was not shot on sight, are hilariously bad to the point of being entertaining in their ineptness.
While Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace") does a nice job as Edward's assistant, the supporting cast is largely irrelevant.
The saddest thing about "The Bucket List" is its wasted potential. How a filmmaker can take two Oscar-winning actors with gifts for comedy and drama and construct a film that fails so miserably is beyond me.
For those who like to be spoonfed their sentimentality, "The Bucket List" may very well hit the mark. For those whose cinematic tastes require character development, authenticity humanity and believability, however, "The Bucket List" should be at the bottom of the list of films you need to see before you die.
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