The Bucket List
The green screen worked better in both of our Batman films, didn’t it?

Theatrical Release Date: 01/11/2008
(limited Dec. 2007 opening for awards consideration)
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd

From what I’ve gathered, a Bucket List is a compilation of the things you’d like to do before you die. I suppose if I wrote one up, it’s would contain the following:

1. Drink all the beers at Jacksons on George in Sydney, Australia so I could get my name on the wall (as of 2000, that list was about 120 beers long … though you could drink them at your own pace so it’s not some power-chug fest).

2. Make amends for some of the dumb things I’ve done to/with other people.

3. Visit Hawaii and Florida, since I’ve been to the other 48 states.

4. Dine at every restaurant owned by a Food Network chef.

5. Under the hour time limit, consume the 72 oz. steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. I’ve driven past the place a dozen times and eaten there once … but as I was in the middle of a 36 hour road trip whichever direction I was headed, I didn’t see the prudence of cramming 4 1/2 lbs. of steak down my gullet before getting back in my car.

In the film , “The Bucket List”, terminally ill Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have more typical goals in mind. Skydiving, driving their dream car around a race track and finding joy in their lives are but some of the tasks they are determined to accomplish before the Grim Reaper takes them away.

Nicholson and Freeman are unsurprisingly good in their roles. Each brings their own level of style and gravity to the film, and their chemistry worked very well. It’s so good that I might actually prefer to see a documentary on the two of them, first attending a Lakers game and then shooting the shit over dinner at Freeman’s restaurant in Mississippi.

However, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the film. As stated, their performances are excellent (as is Sean Hayes in his supporting role) and there was some nice dry wit to help even out the maudlin aspects. Still, there are some aspects I wish director Rob Reiner had smoothed out.

First, there’s the terrible green screen effects. I understand that you might not get an insurance company to sign off on two of Hollywood’s biggest (and *refined* shall we say) actors actually jumping out of a plane or driving high-performance cars at top speed; I get that. But I’ve seen plenty of better green screen in far less worthy films and one would think that with a cast this heralded and an experienced director, the end result wouldn’t look so unpolished.

Second, while I understand there was a lot of ground to cover, I’m not satisfied with their ability to connect with one another during the course of the film. According to IMDb, screenwriter Justin Zackham wrote the script in two weeks.

While there are good examples of screenplays that can come about in such a short time frame (“Swingers” for example), I think another rewrite would have helped certain scenes be more about the two of them bonding than just crossing something off of the list. Also, while I agree with the ending in principal, it also seems to pop up quite suddenly, as if the crew was running out of film. A teeny bit more in the conclusion would have been nice.

That shouldn’t sway anyone from seeing the film, however, as the strength of the acting performances is enough to keep this film afloat and entertaining. I even teared up a bit at the end; not necessarily because of the events displayed but because of the excellent job of the actors.

If you fancy a little trip with Jack and Morgan, “The Bucket List” is a good time and I’m going to give it a strong 3 out of 5. Some more post-production work would have elevated this another point but when it looks like everything in a globe-spanning vacation was shot on a sound stage, I blame the financiers for not ponying up the dough to buy some plane tickets.

More importantly, do you think Zooey Deschanel would give me the time of day knowing she was on my bucket list? … I didn’t think so either … :(