As part of the trend in faith-driven filmmaking (and based on an apparently very popular self-help book), The Ultimate Gift is inspirational filmmaking at its most average. The tale involves a recently deceased business tycoon (James Garner), who gives token fortunes to various family members, all of whom have been ingrate layabouts their entire lives. The exception is young grandson Jason (Drew Fuller), who's the worst of all. He gets a series of tasks from lawyer Ted (Bill Cobbs), designed to see if Jason can actually become a useful member of society and thus, worthy of his inheritance.
Via videotape, grandpa sends Jason to work an honest day (or month) at the family cattle ranch, to beg for handouts, to a South American village to help out, and numerous other adventures designed to teach a young man a little bit about building character. He'll even find a girlfriend (Ali Hillis), the mother of a girl (Abigail Breslin) with cancer.
The lessons here are obvious, yet endearing: Do good works and they will return to you tenfold. And while the book's author overcame adversity (namely blindness) to achieve great success, the story woven here is a little less compelling. I am a fan of altruism as much as the next guy, but "you get what you give" isn't really supposed to involve a billionnaire grandfather dishing out his millions from beyond the grave whenever you do a good deed. For most of us, it just doesn't work that way.
Still, Michael O. Sajbel has put together an altogether pleasant film, though it often meanders into Hallmark territory. The performances are all fine, if unremarkable, and the direction technically capable. Will the film change your outlook on life and "goodness?" Probably not, but it certainly won't make it any worse.
Don't call her little miss sunshine.
In Theaters: Friday 20th October 2006
Box Office USA: $3.2M
Distributed by: Fox Faith
Production compaines: The Ultimate Gift LLC, Dean River Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 40
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Michael O. Sajbel
Producer: Rick Eldridge, John Shepherd
Screenwriter: Cheryl McKay
Starring: James Garner as Howard 'Red' Stevens, Drew Fuller as Jason Stevens, Abigail Breslin as Emily Rose, Ali Hillis as Alexia, Bill Cobbs as Mr. Theophillis 'Ted' Hamilton, Lee Meriwether as Miss Hastings, Brett Rice as Bill Stevens