You want to start a movie off right? Hire Morgan Freeman as your star and then open the flick with some smooth Freeman voice-over. In this particular case, the film doesn't really need the narration, but there's just something so comfortable about Mr. Freeman's vocal chords. So obviously we're off to the right foot here: The Bucket List stars the endlessly cool Morgan Freeman -- as well as the famously entertaining Jack Nicholson. Already this movie is entertaining by default ... but we have two more very important components to check on before we get rolling.

The director is Rob Reiner, a man who definitely knows how to make good movies -- even if he hasn't really done it in over a decade. And the screenwriter is a relative newcomer ... so that's where I choose to focus. After all, The Bucket List is a movie about two terminally ill cancer patients who decide to hit the road, travel the world, and check all the items off their "bucket list" before the reaper finally comes calling. In the hands of a hacky screenwriter, this movie could easily become Grumpy Old Men 3, complete with oh-so-hilarious profanity, a bunch of Viagra gags, and a tacked-on and completely unearned emotional "payoff."

So what a pleasant surprise it is to learn that A) The Bucket List is Mr. Reiner's most satisfying film in a very long time, B) Justin Zackham's canny screenplay avoids schmaltz and artifice at (almost) every turn, and C) that Freeman and Nicholson strike an on-screen chemistry that's simply joyous to behold. I knew I'd enjoy the leads, but the movie's got a few more assets than that...