widescreen – Giant stars hampered by predictable plot

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If I were writing my own bucket list that almighty catalog of things one wants to do before he dies meeting director Rob Reiner would be on it. A low priority, to be sure, but it would be nice to meet him so I could remind him that he once knew

how to inject a little edginess into his movies.

His latest achievement, The Bucket List, is about two strangers who meet and befriend each other while in the hospital receiving cancer treatments. At first, Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is insolent at the idea of sharing a room with anyone, let alone Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). But as their respective treatments burn through their systems, the two strike up a friendship.

Not surprisingly, Edward is an irascible bastard who has more money then he knows what to do with, and Carter is a wise, hard-working middle class man who never had a chance to make his dreams come true.

When they both learn that they have but mere months to live, their friendship deepens and Edward pledges to use his resources to make sure that he and Carter both go out with a bang.

What follows is pretty much what you would expect: The two gallivant across the globe and learn more about each other and themselves in the process. The trailers showcase some of this fun with clips of skydiving and classic race car driving, punctuated with moments of poignancy and humor.

The only surprising thing, then, is that, despite being predictable, the acting and writing are both relatively strong. Nicholson and Freeman are like two grandfathers on a grand adventure; both are incredibly genuine, and both give their characters decent ranges of authentic emotion and fear. Beverly Todd is solid as Carters grieving wife. Sean Hayes is delightful as Edwards assistant.

The screenplay sings like a well-written condolence card from Hallmark, hitting all the right points at all the right times predictable, but no less poignant for being so.

And yet, Bucket never quite comes alive. Reiner tries to infuse energy into the screenplay by keeping the schmaltz-factor focused within every frame, a case of platitude outshining character.

We see mortality confronted as a standing challenge to live and find joy in ones life. Great advice, sure, but Reiner makes it feel like a Rockefeller fairy tale lofty, idealistic and far from the verve Reiner once summoned in similar life-affirming films like Stand By Me and When Harry Met Sally.

Contact the writer at kschramm77@yahoo.com

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