The Bucket List

By Peter Calder

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Herald rating: * *

Doubtless intended as one of those "live every day as if it were your last" homilies, this film manages to be worse than bad: it's actually quite offensive.

From It's a Wonderful Life and Wild Strawberries through to Truly, Madly, Deeply and Ghost, the movies have always been a good place to explore death, because on screen the impossible can happen. But this may be the first film in which terminal cancer becomes the set-up line for a corny joke and the audience is left with the uncomfortable feeling of being condescended to by imbeciles.

Freeman plays Carter Chambers, a blue-collar Christian (as wise as Solomon, natch) who is sharing his last days and hospital room with irascible and unimaginably rich hedonist Edward Cole (Nicholson).

When the latter sees the former compiling a list of things to do before he kicks the bucket, he is intrigued. It begins "witness something majestic" and contains items like "kiss the most beautiful girl in the world". You just know the movie is going to find saccharine ways to make these things happen.

Setting aside that most terminally ill patients don't leap out of bed to start taking in the Pyramids and Taj Mahal, the film has the kind of calculating deliberateness you want in an operating theatre, not a movie theatre: you can practically hear the plot's pieces clicking into place.

It's more a formula than a film and lacks even a single decent one-liner.

The two veterans rub along fine, but when all is said and done, this is a film for people who find cereal-packet philosophy a bit taxing.

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman
Director: Rob Reiner
Running time: 97 mins
Rating: M (offensive language)
Screening: SkyCity, Berkeley, Hoyts
Verdict: Shallow, glib and remarkably unfunny comedy about two terminally ill men trying to live before they die.

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