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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Top customer reviews
Mr. Ray Stevens has just so arranged that all Jason's luxuries are taken away so he will learn the value of work. While Jason is on the streets, he meets a single mother named Alexia who is struggling to pay the doctor's bills for her sickly daughter Emily. For the first time, Jason feels sorry for someone besides himself and endeavours to help them.
Drew Fuller (Jason) does an excellent job showing the gradual transformation from a rude, self-centered punk to a mature, thoughtful and well-mannered gentleman. Brian Dennehy is also eye-catching in a small supporting role as a cowboy. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, just seem to be doing their jobs. The only actor I can think of who stands out like a sore thumb is Abigail Breslin (Emily), who seems to say her lines in an awkward, machine-line tone. James Garner doesn't have much to do, since his role is a cameo. He is just such a big iconic name so Hollywood figured having him in this movie would draw the masses to the theaters.
The dialogue is occasionally a bit clunky (Would Jason's uncle really threaten his lawyer on him simply for not telling him about his inheritance?) and some of the sequence of events could have been better explained (Why did the policeman take Jason away from the resturaunt when he was watching his former girlfriend warm up to another man?) but I give the movie five stars simply because I feel like it has a potentially great story to work with.
For all of it's faults (mainly average, unexceptional performances and occasionally trite lines) The Ultimate Gift is one of the better of the "Hallmark" values films, due to it's great messages of self-sacrifice, courage and friendship.