Billionaire Cole (Nicholson) and auto mechanic Chambers (Freeman) have just one thing in common: both are dying of cancer. After bonding in hospital through their chemotherapy ordeals, the odd couple embark on a globe-trotting adventure...
Everybody has a list these days. Besides the grocery shopping, screeds of places to go, movies to see and books to read, things to do before you kick the bucket are pretty popular. So while audiences may have cold-shouldered a string of films about older women making whoopee, the prospect of Jack Nicholson being characteristically, quixotically Jack-like, and Morgan Freeman, playing his steadfast foil and doubling as sage narrator, gives Rob Reiner his likeliest shot in years.
This is a feelgood comedy about dying, with a message of ‘finding your joy’ and some delusions of profundity. Thus we are supposed to get over the preposterousness of a tycoon and a garage guy sharing a hospital room in the first place. Edward Cole’s (Nicholson) presence there is explained ad tedium as a necessary PR exercise. The billionaire actually owns the hospital and enforced a strict two-beds-per-room policy, blah-blah-blah...
It’s less clear how Freeman’s Carter Chambers has managed to pay for the insurance that keeps him in hospital for months on a mechanic’s salary. Never mind; Edward’s filthy lucre is the means for them to run off for a lifetime’s worth of fantasies and longings squeezed into their remaining weeks, before some inevitable 11th-hour relationship repairs.
And awww, we wouldn’t want to be deprived of the chaps gazing in awe at the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, the Himalayas and the Great Wall Of China, enjoying an African safari, eating caviar in the south of France, skydiving and driving vintage race cars. Of course, they can’t just go do these things; they have to have 80 conversations around the world, in which they ponder the meaning of life, debate the existence of God and all that stuff while Edward’s long-suffering factotem (Sean Hayes) brings up the rear with the baggage and the wisecracks.
Dismayingly, the visual effects are so dodgy it’s obvious the actors are sitting on the same soundstage while the second unit’s holiday snaps pass behind them. There is some joy to be found, however, in the interplay between the duo, and some good laughs: “What the hell are you doing here?” “Fighting for my life. You?”
The script is weak and obvious and the direction disappointingly unimaginative. But stars are stars, and the old boys are terrific - enough to make this a funny and sometimes moving buddy picture.