Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
The Ultimate Gift
"The Ultimate Gift is a winner."
Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) is a trust fund baby—he’s eaten from a silver spoon his entire life. At his grandfather Red’s funeral he makes a showy (and late) entrance, perhaps punctuating his low opinion of the man. But from his grave Red (James Garner) has words for his money hungry relatives at the reading of his will. No one gets what they expect, including Jason.
In a closed conference room with only his grandfather’s trusted attorney (Bill Cobbs) and secretary (Lee Meriwether) in attendance, Jason is advised by Red via a video recording that he’s being given a series of gifts. The catch? He isn’t told what the gifts are, only that he’s to arrive at the airport and await further instructions. Is this his grandfather’s form of a joke, or is Red Stevens trying to reach out and teach him things he never learned from his materialistic family?
Based on a novella by noted motivational speaker and author Jim Stovall, the filmmakers endeavored to preserve the heart of his story while still producing a relevant movie. Says screenwriter Cheryl McKay in an interview conducted by Rene Gutteridge who wrote the novelization of the screenplay, “The biggest challenge was figuring out how to handle all the gifts and not come off with a movie that felt episodic. We had to blend a couple of them together and de-emphasize a couple of them because twelve is a lot to cover in a two-hour movie.”
Winner of the Heartland Film Festival’s Crystal Heart Award, The Ultimate Gift features an Oscar worthy cast. Drew Fuller (best known for his recurring role as Chris Halliwell in Charmed) pulls off Jason’s cockiness and spoiled brat ways, but also believably portrays his transformed self. His facial expressions alone made me laugh out loud a few times. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Signs) could easily have over played her character Emily, but she doesn’t, and she wins our hearts in the process. Ali Hillis (Must Love Dogs) is another notable cast member as Jason’s love interest and Emily’s mother. No one hits it out of the ball park, but you can still win a game without home runs, and The Ultimate Gift is a winner.
The Ultimate Gift is a predictable film you somehow want to be predictable. Its PG rating allows for a few mild swear words and tense thematic moments, but this is really a movie the whole family can enjoy.
From the vast acres of a Texas ranch to the wilds of a South American jungle, Jason’s assumptions about his grandfather, and himself, will never be the same. And even though you’ll most likely guess the film’s ending, it’s the journey that matters. We’re taken on an exciting one with Jason as he discovers not only the ultimate gift, but what type of a man he’s truly capable of being.
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C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.