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Movie Review

The Bucket List a.k.a. “Das Beste kommt zum Schluss,” “Lusikka nurkkaan”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adventure, Comedy, Drama
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 25, 2007 (NYC, LA, Toronto), January 11, 2008 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

Where did cancer come from? Answer

How did bad things come about? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer


Final judgment

Eternal life—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Featuring: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd, Rob Morrow, Rowena King, MaShae Alderman, Verda Bridges, Lauren Cohn, Ian Anthony Dale, Jennifer Defrancisco, Alfonso Freeman, Angela Gardner, Hugh B. Holub, Andrea Johnson, Jordan Lund, Frank Maharajh, Jonathan Mangum, Karen Maruyama, Richard McGonagle, Nikki Novak, Serena Reeder, Ramon Roullard, Christopher Stapleton, Taylor Ann Thompson, Roy Vongtama
Director: Rob Reiner
Producer: Frank Capra III, Alan Greisman, Travis Knox, Neil Meron, Rob Reiner, Jeffrey Stott, Justin Zackham, Craig Zadan
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Bucket List” is a story of two terminally-ill cancer patients who form a nearly immediate and intimate friendship. For as many reasons as one could imagine, if it weren’t for the timing of their illnesses or their being placed in the same hospital room, these two would not likely have “clicked” as friends in everyday life.

Carter Cole (Morgan Freeman) is the first of these two friends that we meet. He is married, with grown children and works an honest job as a car mechanic. He is a history buff, seeming to know everything about nearly everything.

As the beginning of the film progresses, we meet Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) in all of his glory. Edward is the owner of several hospitals which he and his legal team deem successful. His story begins with him at a hearing, in an attempt to procure another hospital. Arrogantly, he announces to its board that they need them, but he certainly doesn’t need them. Responding, they point out that his hospitals are reputed to be grossly understaffed and managed cheaply. He makes it clear that he stands by his standards. It is in this scene where Edward first learns he is sick. Once he realizes what it is like to be stuck in a tiny hospital room with a complete stranger able to see him at his worst, he has the opportunity to glimpse first hand what standard of care is like. While he eats gourmet food, brought to him by his ever faithful assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes) and has a doctor faithfully treating and communicating to him. Meanwhile, Edward watches his new friend Carter be neglected by a very short-handed staff.

In a way that any difficult experience can tie two people together, life seems to form a deep bond between these two very different men. Together they create a “Bucket List” of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.”

The Negative…

While it isn’t the worst out there, the language in this film is pretty offensive at times. Among this is the frequent use of GD.

Edward cannot conceive that Carter has only ever been with his wife sexually. He believes that Carter should add “another woman” to their list. He seems unable to let the issue rest, until near the end.

Edward himself has hardly been monogamous. With a string of ex-wives, and repeated talk of women and sex, it is implied on two different occasions that he has sex. A lot of skin is shown in both scenes, but no actual nudity.

During one part of the initial conversation, where Edward is attempting to talk Carter into sleeping with another woman, he talks of an orgy—claiming it’s the obvious conclusion, and not actually cheating.

The Positive…

On Faith: As one could imagine, the topic of God comes up frequently, as these two friends travel the world. Though Carter never says he is a Christian, there are plenty of times that he does talk about faith. He never quite says what his faith is in, other than God. Perhaps one of my favorite conversations between the two is when the mention of faith first arises. Edward listens to Carter awhile and then finally confesses to him, “I guess I could never wrap my head around it.” Carter looks at him earnestly and chuckles, “Well, maybe your head is the problem.” Later on, in the same conversation, Carter asks Edward if he is sure about his belief in nothing. Edward confirms that he is. Carter then asks him, “What if you are wrong?” To which Edward throws his hands up gleefully and says, “Then I win!” Carter only shakes his head and says, “It doesn’t work that way.”

Carter’s family is seen praying on several occasions. Banding together, and peaceful.

There is a scene in the film where Edward speaks of how Carter has saved his life. Though he never says it in a spiritual context, we see through parts of the film that Edward does soften and change. There are several comparative instances when Carter is portrayed as a very fulfilled and loved man, while Edward begins to see how very empty his life truly is. I am not at all implying that this is a Christian-focused film, but there is much weight to the context of this movie which does point to God being the difference.

Overall, “The Bucket List” is a truly beautiful film. It isn’t perfect, there are offensive moments. Despite them, this is a movie with a message about life. A message about living intentionally and with purpose. It has been a very long time, if ever, that I have witnessed an audience so moved by a mainstream movie.

Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—I wanted to see this movie again as soon as it was over. This film deals with many Christian beliefs from opposite sides, such as death, faith, monogamy, peace, and love. This is an emotional film that faces the “cancer monster” head-on and may be scary to view by some. It is a loving look at the fight involved to live. Jack Nicholson's character has to be the actor’s most heart-felt and character of depth in his career. Morgan Freeman is the man that we all hope we are. This is not appropriate for younger children due to the subject matter, which is extremely serious. There is some swearing and relationships outside of marriage, but no actual scene of it, only inference. It is not overly Christian in subject, but references are worked in subtly that will provide questions from unbelieving friends. It will be a great tool to discuss beliefs and values.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jan M, age 42
Positive—I loved this film. Jack is as funny and arrogant as ever which says a lot if you go around being uptight then you can see how foolish you look through him. And if it’s not you, then you know somebody who fits this profile. If not, then you should. Which is to say, his character is neither right nor wrong, but true to himself. And of course, this questions his ability to keep up with is youthful vitality and taste for the “finer things” of life. Morgan Freeman's character is stronger, only because it is deeper in reason. I loved how freely he questioned his friend in different areas, his feelings of anger, and how he communicates with those he loves and his love of God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—John Homa, age 42
Positive—Having lost my mother to cancer a few months ago, I knew that “The Bucket List” would be a movie I would appreciate. And I did. “The Bucket List” presents life as is, with death being part of it. And, in my own opinion, it is a profound Christian movie. Morgan Freeman's character is a practicing Christian throughout the film. Jack Nicholson's character is the Good Samaritan—yet another proof that facts speak louder than words. “The Bucket List” is a film that would not disappoint—in the moral wasteland that Hollywood is nowadays, this movie is a true pearl.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Virgil, age 33
Neutral—“The Bucket List” contains a few funny moments, some touching moments, and some scenes that look good. Unfortunately, all of this is tied together by a weak screenplay. The characters engage in the bucket list due more to needs of the film than for any realistic reasons and terminate the project for almost the same reason. They don’t do much more that what is already shown in the commercials and previews. Sure, the scenes are longer so much of “The Bucket List” plays like the extended director’s cut of the advertisements. Much of the dialogue is not very good and very little of what the characters had to say is profound. The subplot involving Carter’s wife’s disapproval of this adventure is underdone, Edward’s reconciliation with his daughter is wasted as there is no dialogue just a teary scene where sentimental music is played over it, and Sean Hayes is wasted in a thankless role as Edward’s assistant. “The Bucket List” is rarely boring, as I am such a fan of Freeman and Nicholson that I could watch them do a dog food commercial. The ending is touching, and there is a good laugh at the end. There is profanity and sexual innuendo, and Nicholson’s character is an atheist, but “The Bucket List” seems to side with Freeman’s character on the faith issue. I just wish the film had been more thoughtful about this idea, since it isn’t a bad one and inspired me to write my own bucket list.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Andrew, age 31
Negative—This film used the Lord’s name in vain regularly. There was profanity throughout. The plot had so much potential, however, it was slow moving and emotionally intense—making you feel depressed when leaving the theatre. It was disappointing after viewing the trailers. Why? Not so much the story line but the profanity, sexual reference and otherwise; it’s just not necessary.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mrs. Thompson, age 39
Negative—Even though there are good moral issues addressed in this movie, the use of the name of Jesus negates any positive elements for me as a Christian. It is unnecessary, offensive and it is using the Lord’s name in vain. If you’re a Christian, you cannot watch this movie. Some scenes are amazingly amateurish, specifically, the ones where the characters traveled to Egypt, China, etc.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Sonja Van Wyk, age 41
Comments from young people
Positive—“The Bucket List” is the first movie that I have viewed in 2008. And I’m glad that I started off the New Year by seeing this movie. The acting was great, especially Morgan Freeman who did an outstanding job. It had a great story line, with sad and happy parts, and an extremely sad ending. But besides all of this, there were some negative elements in this movie. There is quite a bit of cursing including 1 a**, two h*ll’s, and about five s**t’s. There is also a part where Jack tries to get Carder to cheat on his wife (even though he doesn’t). But besides that, this movie was excellent! As long as your kids ignore all of the cursing and the brief sexual element, I would say to take 12’s and up to see this hopefully Oscar-nominated film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Matthew, age 14
Positive—This movie was absolutely wonderful, and I had gone to see it with one of my friends as a tribute to my grandfather and her’s, since her’s died recently. This movie was better than expected. I had no idea that Freeman’s character would be playing a Christian, and that is definitely how it comes across. And opposite him is Nicholson, who’s character is the type of guy in life a christian might have trouble being around. This is because Edward (Nicholson’s character) is the kind of guy who swears, flips people off, thinks everyone should have sex before marriage, and is an atheist. But, I think Carter (Freeman’s character) is the kind of guy we all want to be like, when witnessing to people like Edward. In the movie, we rarely hear him swear (And after all, no Christian is perfect. We all slip sometimes, for we are all guilty of sin.) and he is strong in his faith. He even shows a major resisting of temptation when he meets a beautiful lady who he gets along with, and she invites him back up to her room. You can see the temptation for him, but then he smiles and says he’s married and that he’s lucky to have a wife like his. It’s very sweet. And you can really see a difference his faith makes to Edward.

So, the positives: A good movie to watch and see an example of witnessing to people like Edward. It has good morals, is generally in favor of Faith, and is pretty funny. Very sweet, and there’s quite a bit of crying in the end.

Negatives: Quite a bit of swearing, mostly on Nicholson’s part. But then, it’s nothing worse than what I heard in Junior High. And we have to remember: We cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians. They are not followers of Christ, and we are. There’s a bit of reference to sex, again: Mostly on Nicholson’s part. Other than that, it was a wonderful movie. I’d recommend it to anyone about 12+.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rachel Hutcheson, age 17
Movie Critics
…very funny with some great moral moments and positive references to Christian faith, but it has some serious moral lapses, including plenty of strong foul language. …
…A similar comedy-drama from Hollywood’s earlier years would have featured at least a half-dozen wonderful supporting parts, the lack of which is duly felt here. …
—Todd McCarthy, Variety
…saccharine picture… a strained plot… it’s like we checked out of the cancer ward straight into Talladega Nights…
—Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail
…Freeman and Nicholson are memorable as unlikely friends despite a choppy script. … there just isn’t enough substance behind their characters to prop up the carpe diem platitudes. …
—Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times
…‘The Bucket List’ is about vomiting blood, skull surgery, night chills, chemotherapy and catheters, and it begins and ends with people dying. In other words, it’s a feel-good movie. …
—Kyle Smith, New York Post