Ultimate Gift, The (2006)

Rated: PG .Grade: BBAB=B+

Starring: Drew Fuller, James Garner, Ali Hillis, Abigail Breslin, Lee Meriwether, Brian Dennehy, Mircea Monroe, Donna Cherry, and Bill Cobbs.

Directed by: Michael O. Sajbel who directed One Night with the King, Ride, and Reluctant Prophet (a biography of Chuck Colson).

Summary: Jason’s wealthy grandfather dies, leaving just some of his fortune to his ungrateful family members, but he has different plans for Jason. Instead of money, he leaves Jason a series of unspecified tasks which he calls gifts that becomes a sort of self-development scavenger hunt. Along the way, he learns some important lessons, and makes some important discoveries about life and his own family history.

Entertainment Value: B Good. Very implausible in parts. But good. I enjoyed it. Call it a charming little movie that has some really great lessons. Decent acting, obviously some big names, and a movie that got ripped by movie critics because it’s too clearly Christian and pro-life in a really meaningful way. One problem I had was that it took so long to explain why Jason had such a poor relationship with his grandfather.

Superficial Content: B Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality B+, Violence C, Language B+, Illegality B+. The beginning of the movie shows some partying and there are some direct references to sexuality. There is alcohol consumption fairly often. Some men kidnap others and hold them hostage, and act as if they have killed one. Some minor profanity and minor law-breaking.

Significant Content: A
Okay, here’s the premise. Money is of secondary value to becoming a good person, and only a person who has become good can use money wisely and to good purpose. In order to become such a person, you have to go through some fairly unpleasant things, and if we can begin to see our lives and their struggles as a chance to become better people, we’ll be much better off. The important gifts this movie offers are work, money, friends, family, learning, problems, giving, laughter, dreams, gratitude, a day, and love. The movie is clearly pro-life, showing the happiness that keeping an unintended child can bring, even if she suffers from cancer. The other major theme is that it is better to give than to receive. And Jesus even comes up occasionally. Not too shabby for Fox.

Artistic/Thought Value: B And mostly because many of the scenes looked fake to me visually and because of the implausibility of some of the plot elements. How is this grandfather qualified to be dispensing these lessons when his own family has so failed to learn any of them? But I love the premise. Imagine that every incident in your life was intended to teach you something…did you learn the lesson? Great perspective for God.

Discussion Questions:
~What lessons about money do you draw from this movie? Why do you think the Bible talks so much about money compared to almost all other subjects? Do you think modern American Christians have a healthy handle on money? How or how not?
~What is more important to pass on to your children: your money or the life lessons and character you acquired in earning it? How can successful people insure that they give their kids the more important parts?
~Compare James Garner’s character with God. How are they alike and not alike?
~Is this a parable for Christianity? How so or not?
~Is it good for people to have a lot of money given to them? Is inheritance a good idea? Why might someone be opposed to it?
~What ways might you incorporate the ideas of this movie into your own family culture?
~If you saw the movie Peaceful Warrior, how would you compare this movie to that one?
~Can you explain why so many mainstream critics panned this movie?

Overall Grade: B+ A bit slow, but well worth the experience, if for no other reason than that you’ll be supporting a movie that unfriendly reviewers seemed to want to destroy.

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