The Contenders

Release date: Dec. 25 Distributor: Warner Bros.

As “The Bucket List” encourages audiences to contemplate all those personal goals still left to accomplish, one can’t help but wonder how many more Oscars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman hope to earn before they can die happy. Is Nicholson content with his 12 noms and three wins? After five times on the ballot, would Freeman like to bring home a gold buddy for his lone statue?

To both actors’ credit, “The Bucket List” is a feel-good movie first and an awards magnet second, and only then by virtue of the respect its leads instantly command among their peers — coupled with a shrewdly timed year-end release.

In dramatic terms, neither role poses especially demanding challenges, and yet Oscar voters could very well relish the prospect of watching these screen favorites playing extensions of their offscreen personae.

Freeman is positively beatific as a humble mechanic saddled with all the wisdom of the world (he also narrates the pic as he did with Oscar winner “The March of the Penguins”), while Nicholson plays an eccentric millionaire whom life has denied nothing, alternating between bouts of charm and cantankerousness.

It is said that the Academy favors stories that bask in the glow of old age, yet Rob Reiner’s old-coot comedy may prove too light in fiber to register beyond its key performances.

Though the actors share the screen for much of the film, don’t be surprised to see some strategic lead/supporting category distinctions to help ensure their Oscar chances.

See photos, trailer and more on ‘The Bucket List’

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