“The Bucket List”

Play it again, Jack. Play it again, Morgan. And, while you’re at it, guys, why not do it to death?

Then again, doing things to death seems to be "The Bucket List’s" main reason for existence. Seldom has such a life-affirming message been surrounded by such soul-deadening desperation.

Naturally, it’s a comedy — an attempted one, anyway, that takes the "Grumpy Old Men" formula to its inevitable conclusion, focusing on its supposedly adorable geezer protagonists as they rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And, in the process, discover the true Meaning of Life.

Alas, Hollywood’s original "Grumpy Old Men," Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, are no longer with us. Except, thankfully, on DVD. (We’ll always have "The Odd Couple.")

But "The Bucket List" team of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman seems a likely all-star substitute, with Nicholson’s naughty-by-nature surliness providing vivid contrast with Freeman’s voice-of-God nobility.

At least in theory. In practice, not even Nicholson and Freeman can save "The Bucket List" from itself.

As a consequence, what might have been a touching meditation on life’s fleeting wonders instead becomes a maudlin exercise in audience manipulation.

Some movies, however manipulative, do it so stealthily and artfully you don’t mind being manipulated at all.

"The Bucket List" is not one of those movies.

And for that, we must credit — or, more precisely, blame — screenwriter Justin Zackham and director Rob Reiner. Based on this movie, neither of them has ever met a heart-tugging contrivance or shameless cliché they didn’t like. Or beat to death.

Appropriately, death is the focus of this attempt at life-affirming uplift, which gives grouchy billionaire Edward Cole (Nicholson) and dignified mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) their very own hospital meet-cute.

Cole became a billionaire, in part, because he insists that every penny-squeezing hospital he owns must have two patients to a room. No exceptions.

Not even for him, when he discovers he’s a cancer patient with mere months to live.

That’s a status he shares with his hospital roommate, Chambers, whose relatively modest circumstances in no way interfere with his vast knowledge (he’s a "Jeopardy!" whiz) or his understanding of what life’s all about.

Naturally, these grumpy guys get on each other’s nerves. That is, until they realize they’ve got a lot of livin’ to do — and precious little time left in which to live it.

So they concoct a joint to-do list before they kick the bucket. Some of the entries ("laugh till you cry," "help a complete stranger") don’t require any particular financial commitment.

For others, however — from globe-trotting treks to Egypt’s pyramids to daredevil bouts of skydiving and auto racing — it seems mighty convenient that half of this particular dynamic duo has billions of dollars, not to mention a private jet, at his disposal.

It’s also fortunate that Cole has no one to complicate his plans — except, perhaps, for his omnipresent assistant ("Will & Grace’s" riotous Sean Hayes, underplaying for a change). And Chambers’ own marriage, we soon learn, isn’t quite as perfect as he is. (Beverly Todd has the thankless role of the starchy spouse.)

Just as "The Bucket List’s" death-defying duo braves multiple perils to prove their vitality, those of us in the audience must test our mettle and risk emotional whiplash as the movie seesaws between raucous slapstick and sticky sentimentality.

That’s inevitable, considering Zackham’s connect-the-dots script — and the glaring credibility problems inherent in a so-called comedy about terminal cancer patients who are so miraculously symptom-free they have enough energy to dash around the world. (If Zackham had any firsthand experience with cancer, he’d know that there are times when getting out of bed or keeping a meal down qualify as miracles.)

Reiner, however, compounds this problem with his languid pacing and hokey, obvious staging. (Reiner hasn’t always been this clueless about comedy: remember "Spinal Tap" and "The Princess Bride"? More than two decades later, I still do — although it seems the director who made them has forgotten.)

And on those rare occasions when, despite everything, "The Bucket List" threatens to achieve genuine emotional impact, Reiner doesn’t trust the audience’s honest reaction; he prefers to force the issue. To say nothing of the tears.

That leaves the (limited) pleasures of watching Nicholson and Freeman do their thing. It’s nothing they haven’t done before — and there are times when both actors come dangerously close to self-parody in the process.

Still, I suppose there are worse ways to waste 97 minutes of your life than watching Freeman radiate island-of-calm dignity — or Nicholson strain to conjure that old Jack magic one more time. I just can’t think of them at the moment.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0272.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Get a sneak peek at Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like