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The Bucket List

Genre: Buddy comedy on chemotherapy

The pitch: High-maintenance zillionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and dignified mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) become mismatched buddies as roommates on a cancer ward, then decide to live their last months crossing items off "the bucket list" of things to do before death.

Money shots: The two leads sky-dive, race cars, ride a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China and do other activities for the movie trailer. The best moments, though, are the little ones, like normally saintly Carter losing his temper, or Edward ignoring Carter's warnings about food and chemo before running for the toilet.

Fashion statement: Nicholson and Freeman both shaved their heads for the film. Nicholson wears weird glasses with angled mirrors so he can watch TV while lying flat on the hospital bed. In the Himalayas, Nicholson wears a huge fur hat like a Russian guard.

Funniest line: "No Confederate flag? No black Jesus?" Edward asks Carter, who rejects the idea of getting a tattoo.

Worst line: "Give him back to me!" Carter's wife tells Edward, nearly turning the film's dynamic into a romantic triangle.

Product placement: Carter fulfills his dream to drive a Mustang Shelby 350. "Jeopardy" frequently plays on TV to show off Carter's mastery of trivia and a "Bert and Ernie" question alludes to the mismatched friendship. A "Chock full o'Nuts" coffee can is proposed as an alternate burial option.

The Jack Factor: With rare exceptions like About Schmidt, Nicholson always plays The Jack Nicholson Character, a rich, sharp-tongued ladies' man. The Bucket List, at least, is comparable to Something's Gotta Give, giving Nicholson a strong sparring partner (Diane Keaton in the other film) and bringing out a relaxed performance free of leering caricature.

Hey, wait a minute: Edward and Carter cross items off the bucket list like on "My Name Is Earl." But late in the film (spoiler alert!) one of them gets mad, tears up the list and throws the scraps on the ground. Later, though, we see the same sheet of paper intact, without visible tears or Scotch tape on it. What gives?

The bottom line: Director Rob Reiner significantly improves from disasters such as Rumor Has It ... for this predictable yet good-natured comedy that makes dialogue like "Find the joy in your life" go down surprisingly easy. With Nicholson and Freeman playing off each other like old pros, the worst thing about The Bucket List is the title. 3 stars

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