Movie Review: The Ultimate GiftQuick Plot Summary: A "spoiled brat" must complete a series of tests in order to inherit a fortune.
Suggested Ages: 11+
I had no real pre-conceived notions before watching this and haven't read the book. This movie clearly has as a chief goal to cause people to think about what they are doing with their life. And at that I would say it succeeds. The story itself was entertaining and interesting and generally "feel good" (though you may cry...), but is a tad under-developed.
This is sometimes seen as a "Christian film" but I think it is a big stretch to put it in that category! Yes, it mentions Jesus by name in a passing reference and there are a few references to church, and there's a few songs with Christian connotations. But that's about it, folks. There's very little preaching here. The message of the movie pretty much boils down to "live life to its fullness and care about others", NOT "accept Jesus Christ as your Savior". Personally, as a Christian, I would have liked to have seen much greater emphasis on some of the spiritual dynamics. This film doesn't really go there, but for what it is, it is pretty good.
As mentioned, I do believe the film was a little under-developed. I believe it could have really benefitted from say another 15 minutes of screen time to help flesh out some of the relationships. For instance, out of the blue the main character Jason (who is initially a spoiled brat) becomes friends with this little girl and her mom and yet there is very little screen time to showing this emotional connection developing. It seems like out of the blue, he is hugging and kissing the little girl and her mom - like they've known each other for a long time when really they just met. It just seemed awkward to me - something I wasn't prepared for emotionally because the movie didn't prep me for it. I kept feeling like this movie was playing with my emotions on a level at which I wasn't prepared for. It felt like the movie was missing 15 minutes of film that was needed to fill in more of the back-story of the development of Jason and his transformation that was occurring.
Then there's the little girl that's constantly portrayed like a super-mature adult and thinking only of others, etc. Nice sentiment, but pretty unrealistic. Her character was a bit too "over the top" in my opinion - she needed to be a little more like a little girl and a little less like a 70-year-old woman with a mature, wise outlook on life.
But all in all, while this was a somewhat contrived, under-developed, emotionally-manipulative film, it was also very entertaining and succeeds in its core goal on getting a person to really think a bit about what they are doing with the gift of life they've been given, so I do definitely recommend it.
Note: There are 2 follow-up films to this, the first follow-up being "The Ultimate Life", which is both a prequel and a sequel rolled into one. While I don't think it's quite as good as this film, it is still a worthwhile watch and is recommended also. The 3rd film, however, is "The Ultimate Legacy" which personally I felt didn't really need to be made and found quite forgettable.
Reviewed by Christopher Long,