'The Bucket List': Sure to tug heartstrings

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A big theme of "The Bucket List" is that life is too short to waste on unimportant matters. Another theme is that most all of us realize much too late that our best laid plans have gone awry.

Those of you -- myself included -- who have witnessed the slow tragic death of cancer might recoil at the silly TV ads promoting the film, and though the actual film might have leaned too heavily on the cliched angles of the buddy picture/lighthearted adventure flick, the story has substance and is full of truth and hard decisions.

Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) is a car mechanic living a decent middle class existence. He had many plans for his life, like finishing college and becoming a history professor, but his wife became pregnant and suddenly 45 years passed.

One normal day at work he gets a call and is informed he has cancer.

Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is a rich curmudgeon who buys hospitals (among other things) and turns them into efficient moneymakers.

"Two beds to a room, no exceptions" is his mantra -- which he is forced to swallow when he is diagnosed with cancer and admitted to his own hospital, getting Carter as a roommate.

Being in the same situation, they slowly become friends and help as much as possible as each deals with his own chemotherapy treatments.

When their treatments end and both are informed the therapy has failed and they have six months to a year to live, Edward has an idea about Carter's "bucket list."

Carter's college philosophy professor once gave an assignment to write a "bucket list" -- a list of all the things you'd like to do before you kick the bucket -- and Carter, knowing he was going to kick the bucket and it was all too late, had been making a dream list -- "kiss the most beautiful woman in the world," "witness something majestic," etc.

Well, Edward is a rich man, and with a few good months left between them, there is no one in the world -- including Carter's wife -- who can stop them.

With no expense spared, they set off to complete the list before it's too late, starting with an item more toward Edward's style -- skydiving.

Morgan Freeman, as always, can do no wrong, and Jack Nicholson, though still "Jack," is a bit awkward as he continues to stumble his way into playing the "old guy" while holding on to the "Jack" of old.

But even with these stumbles, their relationship is solid and believable. We know and understand their love for each other and their desire to see it through.

"The Bucket List" hasn't done well with the critics, and it won't win any awards, but it will find a large audience.

It's well made, well acted and if it doesn't tug at your heartstrings, nothing will.

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