It’s The Shawshank Redemption part two, or it tries to be. It has voiceover narration by Morgan Freeman. It has an inspiring and life-affirming friendship — featuring Morgan Freeman. It just is not very good.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. And if, after seeing the trailer you want to see the movie, then you will get what you are expecting, a formulaic feel-good story of two dying men who finally learn how to live. There just will not be one original or authentic moment along the way. This is the kind of thing old pros Freeman, Jack Nicholson, and director Rob Reiner can pretty much phone in, and that is what they do.
We know the minute we see bombastic Jack Nicholson insisting that the hospitals he owns are not health spas and that everyone shares a room, no exceptions, that soon he will be sharing a room and won’t be happy about it. We know that when saintly though embittered Morgan Freeman shows up in that other bed in the room, they are there to teach each other important life lessons about the importance of connections and living life to the fullest.
But the movie’s idea of living life to the fullest is, well, not very full. It consists of sky-diving and tourism. There are some moments of family reconciliation that are thrown in toward the end but never shared, much less explored. Dying just seems an excuse for a geriatric, spend-it-all Spring Break.
The movie continually undercuts its own ostensible messages. It preaches authenticity but practices facsimile. It preaches tenderness but fetishises hedonism. It preaches on behalf of home but glamorizes running away. Freeman and Nicholson are always watchable, but the best their finer moments in this movie can do is remind us of how much better they are in other films.
Parents should know that this film has some strong language, tense confrontations, sad deaths, and a sexual reference.
Families who see this film should talk about what is on their bucket lists. Why? When will they do those things?
Audiences who like this movie will also like The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares) (mature material), The Doctor, and My Life Without Me.