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I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This
feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the
Grand Prize Winner in October of 2006. The Heartland Film Festival is a
non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly
Moving Picture "
explores the human journey by artistically expressing
hope and respect for the positive values of life."
This is a story of a very rich dysfunctional family. Red Stevens (James Garner) is a crusty, old billionaire who dies suddenly in an air crash. But, Red has planned for his death carefully. He has videotaped an elaborate will. His spoiled and unappealing adult children receive enough to be set for life, but the status of the bulk of the estate remains a mystery. For his grandchild, Jason (Drew Fuller) , Red has special and unknown plans. Jason, by the way, is the ultimate rich-kid, lazy, shallow brat. Through Red's lawyer, Jason is given a number of elaborate, time-consuming tasks and challenges that Red calls "gifts." There are many of these "gifts."
The viewer has the distinct impression that these will either make Jason or break Jason. While doing these tasks in order to get an anticipated pot-of-gold, Jason is mentored and guided and even loved by a Texas rancher (Brian Dennehy), a wise lawyer, a single mother (Alii Hillis), her young daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has leukemia, and an Ecuadorian guide. Jason can't make it without these true, unselfish friends.
The story plays out as a mystery. How many tasks are there? Will Jason tire of the time-consuming and dangerous tasks and quit? Why does Red choose Jason and not the many other numerous children and grandchildren? Is there a pot-of-gold at the end of these tasks? Why is everything shrouded in secrecy? It is profound and interesting storytelling. You want to know the answers to these questions.
As the film progresses, Jason begins to turn for the better, but you never know whether he will finally make it to become a fine human being; specifically, displaying traits like respect for others, sacrifice, heroism, humility, compassion, and fidelity. Or, will he go back to his playboy lifestyle? The acting in this film makes the storytelling believable.
The acting is outstanding and it is a toss-up whether the young people dominate your attention or the old people dominate your attention.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Crystal Heart Award winners as well as other Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
I gave "The Ultimate Gift" a 9 out of 10, which is an unusually high rank for me, but I can't describe enough how pleasantly surprised I was with this effort. Knowing as I went into the film that it was a "Christian" story, I had placed a lower ceiling on my expectations. Not that being "Christian" means that a movie has to be bad - it just usually seems to be the case. Not so much here, however. There were just three or four times where I felt my muscles tighten up as I mentally prepared for emotional cheese, but to my delight, they managed to pull out of it every time without leaving my intelligence insulted. It was a fun and cute story with believable characters, and strong performances all around. It was clean enough that you could take the whole family to see it, yet interesting enough that the parents will not only stay awake, but you'll actually find yourself caught up in a sweet, and sometimes tear-jerking story about redemption, and the pursuit of true joy. Christian-themed films have come a long way, and I look forward to what the future holds as they continue to get better. At this point, it's safe to say that "The Ultimate Gift" is among the best in Christian films on the market today. Definitely worth checking out.
My first thoughts that came to mine after I saw The Ultimate Gift; were great movie. I took my wife to view the movie on a Friday night; with about 60 other people in the movie. The plot, acting and story were amazing. It was everything I look for in a movie, Hollywood gets one right now and then, most of all it was clean and entertaining. The first words from my wife were - "one of the best movie we've seen".This was an amazing, life changing movie with values. It was very inspirational! When we saw it everyone around us loved it. It's more than a "must see" movie, it's an "I want to do better" movie. We would buy this movie, it's that good.
This film was incredible! I saw it at a special screening for State
Officers for the National FFA Organization and the movie was amazing!
I wont go too in-depth in the plot (read the summary), but each gift that Jason received in the movie is very moving and powerful. It teaches value of so many important things such as giving, money, The movie is also really funny and works well with all audiences.
laughter and love.
Honestly in the audience were farm girls to city boys and action lovers to romantic junkies, and we were from all areas of the country - everyone loved it! This movie had everyone laughing and most people even crying (yeah, i don't cry and it got a tear or two).
If you liked Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, Cars, Miracle, or the Lake House you'll like this movie. Because all the movies won the Heart Land: Truly Moving Picture award.
You've got to see this movie!
This story is about a rich, arrogant, spoiled nephew who is a potential
beneficiary of his billionaire uncle's estate. Jason Stevens hasn't
worked a day in his life and just expects to have life fed to him a a
But, he finds that in order to to collect his inheritance he will need to successfully complete 12 monthly 'assignments' leading to what his uncle calls the "Ultimate Gift." The journey that Jason takes will surely make this one of the most heart warming and memorable films you will ever see. My 13 year old son was almost in tears while watching this. It's a movie for young and old alike.
Touching performances by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and other seasoned actors such as Drew Fuller, James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Lee Merriwether will hopefully take this movie to the Oscars!
This movie is one of the most powerful and moving films I have ever seen. This is a movie that I would recommend to anyone, but especially families. It has a message about a young man who has to find out there is more to life then money, that being apart of a family who loves you is the most important thing in life. Finding the ultimate gift is like finding your place in the world, what are you here for? What is your purpose? There is an incredible amount of value in this message and it is something people of all ages can learn from. The acting of Abigail Breslin is yet again incredible, I think even better then Little Miss Sunshine, she completely steals the show. Brian Dennehy is very funny, and James Garner is wonderful as well. This movie has all the aspects of a great film; sure it's no Godfather, but its still and incredible flick. In my showing of the film people where laughing and crying the whole way through, Highly recommended.
Jim 'You Don't Have to be Blind to See' Stovall is an inspirational
writer who in 2001 published a little book by the name of THE ULTIMATE
GIFT in which he transposed many of his motivational teachings into a
novel form, a story of how a tape of a dying man can alter the life of
a crassly money-centric young grandson leading him through trials and
challenges to teach him the meaning of life. Now THE ULTIMATE GIFT
comes to the screen/DVD and before making the groaning judgment that
here is yet another insipid little tale about learning life's lessons
and gaining some spirituality in the process, try watching this two
hour traversal of well acted and well scripted (Cheryl McKay) and well
directed (Michael O. Sajbel) input. There is a lot more to the film
than the grinches might think! A wealthy man Red Stevens (James Garner)
has amassed a fortune, turning his personal life into a shambles in the
process and producing a family of greedy ruthless gluttons - with one
exception: one son rebelled and lost his life to dreams despite the
aspirations of the father. Red has just died and the will is read by
Red's longtime partner and lawyer Ted (Bill Cobbs) and his devoted
assistant Miss Hastings (Lee Meriwether): the family is outraged at the
results of Red's division of his fortune and the one person who is left
to learn of the will's content is Red's egocentric grandson Jason (Drew
Fuller). Through a taped interview just prior to his death Red outlines
the twelve lessons Jason must learn if he is to inherit anything. And
here begins the episodic journey during which Jason learns about
poverty, compassion, friends, death, and spirituality that changes
Jason into a full human being and creates a character who gives back
more than he gets.
Along the way Jason encounters work-ethic Gus (Brian Dennehy), a little girl Emily dying from leukemia (Abigail Breslin) whose sharp wit and tongue manifest wisdom that leads to the bonding of Jason and Emily's mother Alexia (Ali Hillis), and host of other character actors in the various parts of the world where Jason's journey takes him. Yes, the plot is predictable, and yes, the tenor of the piece borders on soap opera at times, but the end result is an examination of life that is told with enough fine humor and realistic dialog that it works. If viewers pass by this DVD because they fear it is just another sappy lecture, they will miss the pleasure of entering the realm of tender communication delivered with style and sincerity. And we all need that, especially now...Grady Harp
I gave this movie a 9 because as much as I did enjoy it there were a few things that didn't completely make sense. However it was a good movie. I am not a Christian, but I saw this with my mom who happens to be a Christian and both of us greatly enjoyed it. Drew Fuller (Black Sash, Charmed, and Army Wives) was brilliant I think that he really showed his range in the film. Abigail Breslin was great and she and Drew had great chemistry as did Drew and Ali Hillis whose great performance I think was lost in the shuffle. All in all, the cast was great, the acting was great, the script was...well, it could have been easier to understand and it was good, and the directing could have been better but I suggest that everyone sees it. The Ultimate Gift is a really great feel good film and whether you are 8 or 80 you can appreciate the message that the film tries to get across.
Spoiled trust beneficiary playboy Jason Stevens is angry with his incalculably rich grandfather Red Stevens, and with his own life. When Red dies Jason shows up late for the funeral and makes a scene when he does show. But Red has prepared a "gift" for Jason's inheritance, unlike anything he leaves to the rest of the family. Indeed, Red leaves the rest of his self-absorbed and greedy Stevens family merely money. However, Jason's "gift" must be earned, and so Jason sets off on the quest. The quest for what Jason initially has no idea. In essence, Jason's quest is the quest of the aspiring knight who must slay his dragon to prove he is a man. Consequently, some may find the plot contrived or even hackneyed. But, as with all fables, it is the struggle that matters, not the circumstance, and what this movie shows is the very real struggle of all young men to find meaning in and a purpose for their lives. For some reason this kind of sentimentality is lately acceptable in war movies, but rarely elsewhere. Thus, it is refreshing to see in a context if minimal violence. When Jason finally gets his "gift" he has become a man that Red could be proud of, and who can be proud of himself. This is a deeply moving picture, and a well constructed one. But it is also one that one must be ready to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This simple, profound movie can help change your heart. Without using anything crass, it gives you a message that is gritty and real. Life is about love. You will weep, laugh, and rejoice to see this movie, if your heart and mind are open and not clouded and cluttered by the trash of the overly secular world. The journey the hero takes is one that tests his mettle and often you feel like giving up on him, but seeing how it comes out shows you that prodigals do make it home. I read that this will be Mr. Garner's last film, I do hope that such is not the case, however if it is, then he has gone out on a high note that is a fine cap to his career. I have not read the book, yet I am sure that this is one of the better adaptions of a book to movie. Christian films get a bad rap as being too bland. Many of them are, but not the Ultimate Gift. It is a gift, from the film maker to you, the audience. I hope that seeing this will inspire others to live out the gift and that we see more such movies being made.
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