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JACK NICHOLSON & MORGAN FREEMAN IN THE BUCKET LIST

Jack and Morgan's perspective of an unreachable mountain YEAR: 2008
Having ventured back into the classic cinema of Jack Nicholson throughout the years, we'll now embark on a relatively modern journey when the man was reunited with the director of the first of his two middle-aged-era pinnacles, ending with AS GOOD AS IT GETS and starting with A FEW GOOD MEN...
Right from the start, in THE BUCKET LIST, the number of times a medical board member gives each other knowing, untrusting glances while Jack's character... a millionaire who owns privatized hospitals... stands, or rather, sits lazily on some kind of hearing against him, this is the sign of director Rob Reiner, begging the audience to agree that Jack is (at first) up to no damn good: What's important is that his Alpha Male tycoon is the polar opposite of the trivia whiz mechanic played by Morgan Freeman...

Jack Nicholson reaching out
And to flesh-out the characters, THE BUCKET LIST heads straight to the hospital, rather unrealistically despite a tacked-on excuse: It's almost impossible to believe that this particular guy, who just happens to own the hospital, would be forced to share a room for "P.R." reasons when we've already learned he can care less about public or relations... But reality must be bent to bring these fellas together...

Morgan Freeman
With his famous smooth and silky voice (he also provides narration... no shock there), Freeman is the moral compass with the full-time job, mostly grownup kids and a loving wife at home, who, while visiting, is beginning to grind on his nerves — and what could easily be a typical Reluctant Buddy flick turns into a breezy adventure having to do with what's called a BUCKET LIST: Cramming in a variety of worthwhile experiences before you die: and these fellas only have about six months to live...

Jack and Morgan deal with a little snag along the journey
But after several quick if rushed montage sequences showing the nightmarish effects of chemotherapy, the boys are on a miracle drug that provides enough reality so that their physically strained globetrotting makes sense. We're able to listen to after-the-fact conversations without experiencing the climb to get there. And there's always something to look forward to while their illness remains in a sort of expository remission. THE BUCKET LIST provides the opposite shock effect of the initial death sentence handed down at the crest of Act One: After a while it seems like these fellas have all the time in the world — energy too.

Jack fires in Africa BUCKET LIST Score: ***1/2
Some conversations are intriguing while a few go nowhere, slowly, or last a bit too long, while the majestic aura of particular locations, filmed in the usual bright digital quality shared by television commercials nowadays, could have easily been cheated as a special effect...

Despite the fact we are in the actual locations, the fact remains: these guys could be anywhere... Meanwhile, they never get too deep for the film to be pretentious, nor does it fall into the usual saccharine torture of the usual Dying-Of-A-Disease-Melodrama, which, unlike this cinematic day at the beach, can be extremely painful.
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