1. Religion & Spirituality

The Ultimate Gift

Christian Movie Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

The Ultimate Gift
Image courtesy © FoxFaith Movies
The Ultimate Gift movie is based on Jim Stovall's book by the same name. Without a major publisher or marketing plan, The Ultimate Gift book has sold more than three million copies. The author, though blind since age 29, had the insight to inspire readers to see the "bigger picture" of life. The film comes to theaters courtesy of the new FoxFaith distribution label designed to bring high-quality entertainment to faith-based audiences. With its aim toward inspirational and spiritual entertainment, this film hits the ultimate target.

Synopsis:

• Genre: Drama
• DVD Release: August 21, 2007
• Film Release: March 9, 2007
• Rated: PG
• Distributed by: FoxFaith Movies and The Bigger Picture
• Director: Michael O. Sajbel
• Cast: Drew Fuller (Jason Stevens), James Garner (Red Stevens), Ali Hillis (Alexia), Abigail Breslin (Emily), Bill Cobbs (Ted Hamilton), Lee Meriwether (Miss Hastings), Brian Dennehy (Gus), Mircea Monroe (Caitlin)
• Writers: Cheryl McKay; Based on Jim Stovall's novel, The Ultimate Gift
• Producers: Rick Eldridge and John Shepherd

An extremely wise and wealthy grandfather gives his shallow, spoiled grandson the ultimate inheritance. In The Ultimate Gift, Jason Stevens, played by Drew Fuller, learns there's more to life than money. Instead of the expected cash windfall, "Red" Stevens (James Garner) has prepared twelve gifts to be given after his death to his grandson. The series of gifts, leading up to the ultimate gift, take Jason on a challenging journey of personal growth and self-discovery.

Valuable Elements:

It's no wonder Jason has turned out to be such a self-centered, lazy young man. He's surrounded by rich, greedy, dysfunctional, just-in-it-for-themselves relatives. But Jason's grandfather looks past the exterior and sees something of value hidden in Jason's character. In his Last Will and Testament he offers Jason a series of "gift challenges" that are wisely designed to bring those rare character qualities to the surface through the refining fire of 12 difficult life-lessons.

Jason learns the gift of work, friends, the value of money, the gift of family, laughter, dreams, learning through pain, the gift of giving, gratitude, forgiveness, love and the gift of a perfect day. Ultimately he transforms into a person of depth and moral strength, receiving the "gifts" that his grandfather knew were far more precious than money. With these gifts, Jason can now make the world a better place.

Abigail Breslin is refreshing, charismatic and heart-capturing in her role as young Emily. While she and Jason discuss heaven she asks him, "Did you know God paints every color in a butterfly with his finger?" While gazing at the open arms of a Christ statue, Jason explains, "I don't know much about God or Jesus, but I can promise you, those arms are meant for you." Christian audiences will be pleased to hear the name of their Savior mentioned in a movie theater in this rare, respectful tone.

Negative Elements:

Unfortunately, the film makers have left a few puzzling pieces to the story line, weakening the movie's chance for a wide-audience appeal. I never could quite put together the actual cause for the broken relationship between Red and his grandson. The problem stems from events surrounding Jason's father's death. Whatever happened between them, finally gets resolved, but it would have been nice to understand what trespass had caused such hatred and unforgiveness.

Sexual Content:

There is no nudity in the film. Jason's former habit of casual sexual indulgence is mentioned in one scene. In another an ex-girlfriend unsuccessfully attempts to seduce Jason.

Violence:

The most disturbingly "violent" scene involves a traumatic, dysfunctional-family holiday dinner [Note: writers attempt at humor]. A homeless person tries to snatch a purse from a woman in the city park. Though not graphically violent, characters are beaten, starved and thrown into primitive prisons. Drug lords use violence and guns. Themes of death, loss, and terminal illness are brought to the viewer's attention.

Language:

"Screw you," "hoser," and "shut up," are the harshest words you will hear. This film is about as clean as they come out of Hollywood.

Drug and Alcohol:

Characters are shown drinking wine at more than one dinner occasion. Jason drinks a glass of wine at home alone. Jason and his grandfather's lawyer share a glass of brandy at the older gentleman's home. Jason becomes slightly intoxicated after drinking a fermented concoction with natives at a celebration for the library dedication. Drug lords become drunk and invite prisoners to drink with them in celebration of Christmas.

Conclusion:

This film is rich with spiritual treasures. These are some of the gifts offered in The Ultimate Gift:
• If you love your work it's not a labor.
• Money is simply a tool, not a goal.
• True wealth is measured by one's friendships.
• We learn through life's trials, we grow through pain.
• Life's problems teach us how to use good judgment, which in turn teaches us how to avoid life's problems.
• Every family, no matter how dysfunctional, has value.
• Laughter is the soul's medicine.
• Faith can make our dreams realities.
• We gain most when we give ourselves in service to others.
• Gratitude comes from recognizing what we have, not dwelling on the things we lack.
• Living in the present and taking time for the people we cherish, is the formula for a perfect day.
• Love is the greatest treasure. We gain it by giving it away.

I applaud FoxFaith Movies for producing films like The Ultimate Gift, and giving Christians the gift of more meaningful and wholesome entertainment options. It's about time!

If you'd like to learn more about FoxFaith's upcoming films, visit FoxFaithMovies.com.

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