It would be easy to dismiss this movie as a buddy film for gentlemen of a certain age, but the message The Bucket List conveys is universal and crosses all proverbial generation gaps. It speaks of hope and regret; of life and death. It weighs what we dream of against what we settle for and offers a means of assessing where we are before we find ourselves too late in life.

“The film has sentiment without being sentimental,” offers Jack Nicholson, explaining that it was the film’s potential resonance with audiences that attracted him to the script.

His hopes were confirmed after the first screening he attended.

“I was impressed by how long the audience was moved at the end of the picture,” he relays.

“To deal with one of the most fearsome subjects in a comic manner is a creative puzzle really,” says Nicholson, who credits director Rob Reiner for setting the tone of the film. “He did a great job, and it’s not the kind of job you get credit for.”

“When you go to a studio and say ‘I want to make a movie about two old guys dying’ they don’t just say, ‘OK, here’s 45 million dollars.’” jokes Reiner, who goes on to explain that it was the heart and emotion in the script that drove him to get the project done.

“One of [Rob’s] great gifts as a director is taking serious, dramatic work and finding the humor in it,” says producer Craig Zadan. “There’s a line between sentiment and sentimentality, and there’s always that tiny, little ground between the two that you need to stay on. and Rob’s brilliant at that!”

The attraction of this film is that it holds the audience tight, but with a loose grip. It reflects the audience’s emotional response, as opposed to projecting it upon us.

The Bucket List releases in select theaters Dec. 25.