The Ultimate Gift

| February 22, 2007

The Ultimate Gift is based on the novel by Jim Stovall. For most, the storyline is familiar almost the moment the movie begins. Redundant and predictable, its major redeeming factor is Emily (Abigail Breslin), with her artistic mouth and bittersweet ending.
Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) begins the movie as a spoiled 20-something arriving late to his grandfather’s funeral. That grandfather had died very wealthy and left an interesting will that was divided immediately. Jason is informed that he is entitled to the ultimate gift if he completes a series of assignments.
The first place that young, dysfunctional men are sent to in these stories is a ranch, with its isolation, early wake-up calls and manual labor. As mentioned, the movie holds little mystery, but there is satisfaction watching Jason evolve into a nicer person. After the gift of work, he has all his possessions taken from him (an event that Jason takes surprisingly well, but maybe he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Bad boys usually don’t), a move that undoubtedly would delight viewers who enjoyed Jesus’s answer to the rich man’s question: “How do I get to heaven?” (“Give up everything.”) The dead grandfather’s gifts of work, friendship, generosity and family are dealt without mercy.
While homeless, Jason meets Emily, and strikes a deal of friendship. As the “gifts” progress, Jason becomes more involved with Emily and her single mother. He finds out (thanks to a misplaced and comical bum) that Emily’s mom, Alexia (Alli Hillis), is in need of fiscal relief and the family becomes his project. Emily graces with screen with feisty ambiance, but so much so that it comes to no surprise when Jason finds out she has leukemia.
With the next gift comes a bump in the plot: that of Jason’s father’s cloudy death, which the script heretofore hasn’t given the audience any grounds to care about and eats up about fifteen minutes of the movie.
Ultimately (pun!) Jason receives a fortune, erects a luxury hospital in Emily’s memory, falls in love with Alexia and becomes the man that his grandfather had hoped he would become.
If viewed with an expectation of realism, The Ultimate Gift is ridiculous and doesn’t quite live up to its literary counterpart. It is cute, heartwarming, and bittersweet, but also loaded with unnecessary baggage that fails to drive the story forward. There several painfully slow moments, especially through the second half, as the movie gets increasingly longer.
Therefore, I would not say that The Ultimate Gift was worth my time, but it certainly was worth some of it.
For future viewers: watch it with a remote and crimson lipstick.

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