Friday, January 11, 2008

Heavyweight actors, lightweight movie

Summary: Two fine actors don’t necessarily add up to one good movie. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman prove the point when they join forces in "The Bucket List," a sentimental geezer comedy that seldom bypasses contrivance.

Nicholson’s character made his fortune operating hospitals; Freeman plays a guy who has spent his life repairing automobiles. Both are dying of cancer. As luck -- and a manipulative screenplay -- would have it, they wind up sharing the same hospital room.

Nicholson's Edward Cole has a Scrooge-like personality and a taste for exotic coffee. Freeman's Carter Chambers prides himself on being knowledgeable and well read. They're an odd couple united around an idea that leads them to jump out of airplanes, travel to Europe, drive fast cars and act out their fantasies.

They're living through a bucket-list scenario. Here's how it works: Cole dares Chambers to make a list of all the things he wants to accomplish before he dies. He also offers to finance Chambers in his pursuit of 11th-hour thrills. After 45 years of marriage, Chambers is ready for adventure. His wife (Beverly Todd) would like him to stay home, but he's committed to doing something for himself.

Nicholson tries to be impish and provocative; Freeman adds weight to this Rob Reiner-directed slice of sentiment, and the two of them find a couple of moments that aren’t entirely artificial. Think of it this way: "The Bucket List" is a one-star idea that's elevated into a two-star effort from Nicholson and Freeman. That's an accomplishment, I guess, but not much of one.

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