A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Ultimate Gift is a faith-based, message drama that includes several deaths and has some very sad moments. A very unlikable young man is awakened by his boss using a cattle prod, left without resources to fend for himself on the streets, and is captured, beaten, and threatened with death by drunken drug dealers. There is some mild cursing ("hell," "screw him"), and several scenes in which characters drink and smoke. Spoiler alert: A little girl with leukemia, in whom the audience is heavily-invested, dies off camera. Her death may be very upsetting to kids.
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What's the story?
THE ULTIMATE GIFT follows the travails of 24-year-old Jason (Drew Fuller), a selfish trust-fund kid who arrives late for his grandfather Red (James Garner's), funeral, then complains at the reading of his videotaped the will. Obviously, he has lots of lessons to learn. Red dangles a prize before his grandson, saying that if he does as he's told, he'll eventually possess "the ultimate gift." En route, Jason meets a series of helpful folks, including Gus (Brian Dennehy), a rancher who has Jason set a lot of fence posts so that he can experience the rewards of manual labor. Back in the city, Jason learns that he's now out of credit. His spoiled, money-hungry girlfriend replaces him, he argues with a bum (Tom Conder), and he meets adorable 10-year-old mini-Goth girl Emily (Abigail Breslin), who, along with her mother, teach Jason his greatest lessons. Jason ends up taking a detour to seek out his father's legacy (he died doing good work in Ecuador). He encounters a squad of gun-toting Ecuadorian drug dealers who beat and imprison him; but again he learns a lesson, doing the right thing by his nameless guide, who's also abused by the thugs. Jason's "gift," at last, has to do with giving to others.
Is it any good?
Thank goodness for Bill Cobbs. As Hamilton, the wise, infinitely patient lawyer in The Ultimate Gift, he provides welcome respite from the movie's sentimental, predictable action. Nuanced and detailed, his performance is the film's only convincing element. Too bad Hamilton is just a supporting character. The film's insistence on stereotypes is evident in the introduction of violent Ecuadorian drug dealers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the change in Jason. What is the "ultimate gift" his grandfather teaches him? How do the various secondary characters -- his materialistic mother, the "bum" who steals in the park, the "amigo" in Ecuador -- help Jason learn his lesson? How does Emily provide Jason with a model for good behavior?
Is it obvious that this movie has faith-based messages? Why or why not?
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