The Bucket List / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | January 11, 2008 | Comments ()
Oh sure, I wept like a pandering Hillary doll at the unremarkable August Rush, unwisely allowed myself to be Denzel’s bitch at The Great Debaters, and succumbed to the power of baby regurgitation in Waitress and Juno. But I’ve gotten it out of my system, folks. I swear. There’s nothing left; I’ve tapped out a year’s worth of brackish eye sweat; I’ve exhausted my emotions; and I’ve left my tender side beneath the sun to dry out, shrivel, and harden into a putrid mass of splenetic jerky. I am drunk on animus and oppugnancy. I want to wake cute children from their slumber with air horns! I want to kick old ladies out of their wheelchairs! And I want to ride through a field of dandelions with a power mower! (Unrelated: I want to learn how to blow shit up with my mind.)
Bring on the geezers, motherfuckers. Let’s drop those buckets on their heads and bang them with mallets. Let’s feed their indeterminate types of cancer to Labrador puppies, and let’s give their characters’ lives the proper send off: A swift kick in the bucket’s sweet spot, right where the manipulative, shameless, nausea-inducing treacle resides. And then, let’s light a match and watch these senile old fucks slowly bleed out while we sigh at the audacious sentimentality and rail against the pathetic attempts to pull our fibrous heartstrings clinging like tendon to bone.
Oh, and The Bucket List sucks like a skint-knee starletard who’s misplaced her ATM card. I hated it with the force of a lifetime’s worth of Winehouse insufflations.
Starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, The Bucket List is about two men stricken with cancer who decide to fulfill their bucket lists before they die, i.e., the things they wanted to do with their lives before they … er … kick the bucket. Freeman is Carter Chambers, a mechanic with a Ken Jennings’ knowledge of trivia, who obnoxiously responds to “Jeopardy” answers in the form of a question. (God that pisses me off — nobody outside of Alex Trebek gives a shit in what form you answer the question — there’s not some Quitters Inc. fuck who travels the country torturing family members if you don’t answer according to the “Jeopardy” prescribed rules. Stop it, people.). He’s like the elderly version of Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire, incessantly rattling off useless bits of trivia that anyone with a grade school education probably already knows. And, it probably doesn’t even merit me saying it because of its obviosity, but he also narrates the film, because that’s what Morgan Freeman does: He narrates. He reads maudlin bullshit with his omnipotent voice and he sells motherfucking tickets. In fact, the film opens with this bit of voice-over narration revealing that Edward Cole (Nicholson) was already dead that was so violently gaggish that it triggered my Gastrocolic reflex: “It’s difficult to understand the sum of a persons’ life … I believe that you measure yourself by the people who measured themselves by you … I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open.” Clear Eyes! Full Hearts! Fuck you!
Cole is a workaholic, zillionaire asshole who coughs up blood and winds up in the hospital next to Carter, who reenters with this narration: “That was the first time I laid eyes on Edward Cole,” which — if I’m not mistaken — is a line so similar to one in Shawshank that I half expected him to refer to Edward as a “tall drink of water with the silver spoon up his ass.”
“By the morning of the surgery,” Chambers continued, “the cancer had spread so much that they only gave Edward a five percent chance to survive; but they didn’t account for how pissed off they made him.” And, of course, Cole would survive long enough to turn the first half of the film into geriatric Oprah: Two old men bonding over chemo. They weep(!) shit(!), and play gin together — it’s all about as heartwarming as dead kittens roasting on a spit.
After one of those uplifting vomit sessions, Cole discovers Chambers’ bucket list and, using his own money, decides the two should embark one of those life-affirming journeys. Accordingly, he creates his own personal Make-A-Wish Foundation so that the duo might make more out of their “last days on earth than most people carve out of a lifetime.” They skydive! They race cars! They get tattoos! They sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” while driving through African wildlife! And when Edward kisses his estranged daughter’s child and crosses “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” off the list, Hallmark employees and Obama speechwriters everywhere weep with envy.
I don’t know what the hell happened to Rob Reiner, who is officially on a 13-year bed-shitting streak, but The Bucket List is as bad as anything he’s directed, including his most recent effort, Rumor Has It. Even with the presence of two of the greatest actors, like, ever, The Bucket List is about as tender as a crappy John Mayer song, about as emotionally wracking as a Celine Dion warble, and about as painful as stomach cancer. Justin Zackham’s script was seemingly written by a needlepoint group after a three-week Beaches and Mitch Albom bender — it’s a movie tailor-made for people who have “Footprints” art posters on their wall. Oh, you may cry at The Bucket List, but not because it’s a tearjerker, but because you’ve been suckered out of a half-day’s wage by a couple of Oscar-nominated actors cashing out before Father Time figuratively drops an office chair with an old-school computer monitor strapped to it on their heads (Geronimo, motherfucker).
But, if you don’t believe me, take it from (esteemed) critic and probable blurb whore, Sean the Movie Guy, who was inspired by The Bucket List to write this gem: “I hope that I get to see many more movies as enjoyable as “The Bucket List” before I kick my bucket and head for that great multiplex in the sky.” Due respect, Sean, but if they’re showing The Bucket List in the sky’s multiplex, you’ve taken a wrong turn in the afterlife.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.