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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 16, 2008
The world of movies
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The Bucket List
April 16, 2008 By Witold Żygulski   
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Multimillionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson-The Departed, About Schmidt, As Good As It Gets) is an egocentric hedonist and three-time divorcee whose contempt for others is no secret. He makes no attempt to stay in touch with his ex-wives or only daughter and seems cheerfully unaware of his granddaughter's existence. "Presidents have asked my advice, I have dined with royalty," he self-effacingly says of himself. Managing hospitals is one of many activities that keep his fortune growing.

Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman-Seven, Batman Begins, The Shawshank Redemption) is a car mechanic who had to abandon his philosophy studies 45 years previously when his wife told him she was expecting their first child. Chambers has channeled all his energy and ambitions into raising his children while, despite his efforts, his own life has never amounted to anything more than average. One son is a lawyer, the other an engineer and his daughter is a distinguished violinist. Chambers's one claim to distinction is that he knows the answer to virtually every TV quiz show question.

What, if anything, could these two have in common? What, if anything, could get them to befriend each other? We soon find out once they share a hospital room having learned that cancer will claim them within a year. Their doctors rate their chances of recovery as zero, telling them the best they can hope for is a temporary remission.

Cole could obviously have had a private room but has never previously allowed any exception to his "two beds per room rule" claiming "hospitals are not SPA resorts." His advisers convince him that making an exception for himself would ruin his credibility as a businessman.

The two terminally ill men predictably begin to bond. Cole learns that a teacher had once told Chambers to draw up a "Bucket List," a list of things he would like to do before he kicked the bucket. Cole becomes inspired to take himself and his unlikely new friend on a bucket list expedition. Chambers embarks on a fantastic voyage with Cole despite his family's reservations. The two go sky-diving, tear around race tracks, go on a safari in Tanzania, see the Taj Mahal, the pyramids, the Himalayas, Hong Kong and all sorts of other places the modest mechanic could only have ever dreamed about. They travel via private jet, stay in exclusive hotels and dine at posh restaurants.

All very touching but we have seen it all before. Neither director Bob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, Misery) nor screenwriter Justin Zackham have ventured outside well-trodden territory. The Bucket List has a predictability that lends it an aching dullness that not even two of Hollywood's A-list can remedy despite turning in excellent performances. The viewer gets to learn that love and family are what matters most, that no amount of luxury compares with the affection of your nearest and dearest, that selfless kindness really does pay off and so on and so forth ad nauseam. And of course, Chambers finally gets his philosophy about the best things in life being free through to Cole.
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