The last line of the classic Chock full o’Nuts jingle promises, “Better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy,” so it seems altogether appropriate when blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) informs his hospital roommate Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson)—a billionaire businessman who brews Kopi Luwak in an ostentatious siphon next to his bed—that he wants his ashes interred inside one of the coffee company’s cans. The title of that jingle, after all, is “That Heavenly Feeling,” and the give-and-take between Carter’s desire to experience simple pleasures and Edward’s to take in one last helping of the finer things in life is what creates exactly that in The Bucket List.
It’s a full-bodied brew, blended out of equal parts comedy and drama—and that director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too-sweet taste of sentimentality is largely due to a pair of powerhouse performances from Freeman and Nicholson. The Academy Award winners’ characters have nothing in common until they wind up on the cancer ward together. Edward, who made his money by privatizing public hospitals while espousing the no-frills slogan “Two beds to a room, no exceptions,” is rich enough to afford a private suite but rooms with random everyman Carter to avoid looking like a hypocrite.
If, as Edward’s private physician (Rob Morrow) says, “Humor is a good sign as is surliness,” the gruff, feisty roommates begin to show signs that they may be on the road to recovery.
While Edward gorges on a takeout feast from an upscale eatery before a chemotherapy session, for example, he boasts that the food is the “best in L.A.”
“Ain’t the best in L.A. no more,” Carter cracks when Edward winds up puking.
After being given a year—“at best”—to live, however, they suddenly share a desire to spend the little time left to them doing everything they ever wanted to do before kicking the Bucket. In a series of set pieces that start out comic and wrap up with a more tear-jerking tinge, Carter encourages Edward to “find the joy in his life” at the same time they strive to patch up their respective strained relationships with loved ones. The degree to which the audiences that line up to watch The Bucket List over the holiday season will be inspired to do the same remains to be seen, but this heartfelt film will certainly help them find a little joy.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Rob Morrow and Beverly Todd
Director: Rob Reiner
Screenwriter: Justin Zackham
Producers: Alan Greisman, Rob Reiner, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
Genre: Comedy drama
Rating: PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference
Running time: TBD
Release date: December 25, 2007 ltd., January 11, 2008 exp.