The Ultimate Gift
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When his wealthy grandfather dies, trust fund baby Jason Stevens inherits his grandfather's crash course on life: 12 tasks-or-gifts-designed to challenge Jason in improbable ways. The "course" sends Jason on a journey of self-discovery that forces him to reevaluate his priorities and determine what he thinks the most important things in life really are.
The Ultimate Gift is a tale of one man's tumultuous journey toward personal growth and fulfillment. Surrounded in life, and death, by avaricious family members fueled by a sense of entitlement, billionaire Red Stevens (James Garner) wants to bequeath at least one member of his extended family "the ultimate gift": something he perceives as immensely more valuable than material wealth. Red's arrogant grandson Jason (Drew Fuller) holds a deep-seated hatred for his newly-deceased grandfather, so he's surprised to learn from his grandfather's friend and lawyer Mr. Hamilton (Bill Cobbs) and assistant Miss Hastings (Lee Meriwether) that he's been mentioned in his late grandfather's will. Far from a straightforward gift of cash, land, or stock, Red's bequest comes in the form of a series of mysterious recorded instructions, the first of which requires Jason to hop on a plane for Texas the very next morning without a hint of the trip's purpose or the nature of the gift that awaits him. Dropped into a life of hard physical labor on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Jason's bad-tempered fury eventually turns to resignation and he finds himself engaged in, and even taking pride in, the first real manual labor he's ever done in his life. Unbeknownst to him, his journey toward claiming the ultimate gift has only just begun. When he returns from Texas, Jason finds his home cleared out, his car confiscated, and instructions to produce one true friend. While Jason is reduced to sleeping in the park, a young child name Emily (Abigail Breslin) and her mother Alexia (Ali Hillis) make his acquaintance and lead him to re-examine his personal prejudices and perceptions of what's truly important in life. Jason's journey of self-discovery continues throughout a series of other trying experiences and, in the end, Grandpa Red's "ultimate gift" of life lessons profoundly and permanently improves the quality of Jason's life. What's more, Jason's new perspective of his place in society has a very positive affect on the larger community. This very powerful film is funny, heartbreaking, and intensely thought-provoking. --Tami Horiuchi
Stills from The Ultimate Gift (click for larger image)
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Each part of the movie can be paused and then my students (4th - 6th graders) are given a task from the book that goes with that section of the movie and they complete the task at home by themselves. Then a week later we talk about how their "gift" made the recipient feel and then we would watch another part of the movie and do the next "gift".
One year my students got really involved in this movie that they started a club at recess time where they held meetings with students from other grades and classrooms and shared the nice things they all did for others. They even made little badges and gave them as rewards to the members who helped others. The local News came and did a story on their projects and internet sites that they set up. It was really neat.
Each year we start collecting money for 2-3 charities that the students vote on and have competitions to see which charity can raise the most money in a month.
Finally, at the end of the year, I provide a few movies for each of my students to choose one movie and many choose this one to keep for themselves forever.