Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Rob Morrow
Director:  Rob Reiner
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  97 Minutes
Release Date:  June 10, 2008

“I wish I’d met you before we were dead.”

Film ***

We don’t like to think about it, but we are all making our way toward the grave.  The only question is, do we march to it slowly, languidly and complacently, or do we slide in feet first leaving skid marks, a worn out body, and screaming “what a ride”?

The Bucket List examines this eternal question.  It’s a film that shouldn’t work, but somehow does, thanks largely to the chemistry and superb performances from Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  It might be easy to say the movie doesn’t represent realism, but given that many of us haven’t yet reached the stage of their characters, who’s to say for sure?

Carter (Freeman) is an aging mechanic with a head for history.  Edward (Nicholson) is a millionaire specializing in hospital privatization.  These men ordinarily would have little in common, but as it turns out, they share a sympathetic bond:  both men have terminal cancer, and maybe six months or so to live.

They meet in a shared hospital room, and with little else to do, strike up conversations and become unusual friends.  Edward is intrigued by Carter’s idea of a ‘bucket list’…once upon a time in college it was a philosophical exercise, but given the men’s fates, it has deeper meaning now.  Though Carter is married, Edward is three times divorced and estranged from his daughter, and with money to spend, he decides it would be a good idea to tackle the list head on and leave the world kicking and screaming.

Why does Carter agree to go on this adventure with Edward given he has a loving and supportive wife?  That falls under the category of what I would normally dismiss as unrealistic, but then, I can’t say.  I’m just about to begin married life, so I can’t speak for a man who’s seen 45 years of marriage.  But go with Edward he does, and the film takes us all over the world, as the friends try to live life to the fullest and find meaning in their own existences and eventual demises.

It could have been awkward, it could have been tasteless, but Rob Reiner grounds the morbid premise with a sense of warmth and humanity, not to mention humor.  I wasn’t sure how much I could laugh at a film like this, given my own experience with terminal cancer in my family, but the movie demonstrates that sometimes when life is dealing you the darkest cards, all you CAN do is laugh.

I can’t say enough about the wonderful work from Messers Nicholson and Freeman.  Put this material in the hands of two lesser actors, and you could easily have a mess, but these two veterans know how to explore a character’s heart and soul, and how to open them up for all to experience.  Whether or not the ideas behind the movie are realistic, I cannot say, but they take the fantastic and absurd and ground it in reality for the audience.

It’s those performances that make the premise work, and it’s their characters that will stay with you longer than anything else after the credits roll.  It isn’t every day we get to see a pairing as colossal as this one, and that more than anything else makes The Bucket List a worthy recommend.

Video ****

Simply stunning…I wouldn’t have guess there would be so much visual flair in a movie like this, but Carter and Edward’s globetrotting adventures make for a visual feast, from the pyramids to the Taj Mahal, from a safari in Africa to the Great Wall.  This movie seems like it was designed for hi-def, and Blu-ray delivers with a startling clarity and crispness that brings the experiences to life.  Gorgeous colors and sharp images throughout make this a top notch presentation.

Audio ***

The 5.1 audio is a little more low-key…after all, this is mostly a dialogue-oriented film.  But there are moments of liveliness, such as the skydiving or the safari that opens up the experience with more dynamic range and surround effects.

Features ***

There is an exclusive Blu-ray pop-up trivia track that’s quite entertaining and frequently funny.  Little post-it notes show up here and there on the screen, pointing out little bits of info.  There are two interviews conducted by Rob Reiner, one with Jack, one with Morgan, plus a look at screenwriter Justin Zackham.  Lastly, there’s a music video for John Mayer’s “Say”, along with a making-of for it.


It’s unusual, it’s charming, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s funny.  I can’t say that about too many films.  The Bucket List takes a thoughtful treatise on the eventual end for us all and elevates it with humor and warmth.

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