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Living it Up
Nicholson, Freeman can't save "Bucket List"

The Bucket List (PG-13) 1 star out of 4 The poster advertising this movie shows actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman flashing their pearly whites and sharing a huge laugh with a brilliant sunset in the background. This image might lead you to believe this is an uproarious comedy starring two of the greatest actors alive.

Technically, "The Bucket List" is a comedy, but there's not a single laugh-inducing line or scene in the entire movie. Both leads have cancer, and may be dying soon. There have been a few satires that tackle the subject of premature death, and some are hilarious. This is a thematically tough nut to crack and no matter how talented the writer, director or actors might be, no one can make a funny movie about a cancer death by dressing it up like a sitcom-flavored, mismatched-buddy road flick. Check out (or rather, don't) last year's "Two Weeks" starring Sally Field for further proof.

Recycling the same self-absorbed misanthrope (minus the OCD) that won him the Oscar in "As Good As It Gets," Nicholson plays Edward, the billionaire owner of a chain of hospitals, whose mantra, "two patients to a room, no exceptions" comes back to haunt him. He must now share quarters, and his misery, with Carter (Freeman), an auto mechanic who is as sagely and congenial as virtually all other Freeman characters. It's not surprising that Freeman is also called on to provide his trademark, omnipotent, voice-of-God narration.

After the overlong, obligatory getting-to-know-you period of bickering, Carter and Edward become inseparable soul mates. They inexplicably decide to forgo any further cancer treatment and turn into eccentric globetrotters. With Edward bank-rolling the journey, the pair head out on their most excellent adventure.

During their trek, the men visit the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, spots that take care of Carter's spiritual "witness something majestic" agenda. Edward is more concerned with instant gratification and satisfies himself by jumping out of airplanes, racing hot rods and hopefully kissing the most beautiful girl in the world.

Throughout the film, writer Justin Zackham regularly injects moments of extreme faux-Hallmark sincerity, all of which land with a gigantic thud. The most embarrassing of these shows Edward having a gut-wrenching, emotional epiphany... while in the company of two hookers. Needless to say, all of this collective schmaltz comes as a major disappointment but, considering Rob Reiner is the director, it's not much of a surprise.

After admirably escaping from his father Carl's formidable shadow, Reiner churned out a handful of near-classic movies in the '80s and '90s and established himself as a major filmmaker in his own right. But, he has been slowly sinking into absolute ineptitude in more recent years.

No one thought Reiner could possibly turn out a worse film than "Rumor Has It..." but "The Bucket List" has proved all the prognosticators wrong. Note to Reiner: If you can't even make a so-so movie with Nicholson and Freeman, it's time to think about hanging up your spurs. (Warner Bros.)