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The Ultimate Life
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 Life is the sequel to 2007's faith-based inspirational drama The Ultimate Gift. Like the original, this follow-up has lots of feel-good (if overly obvious) messages about what money can (oil rigs, big houses) and can't buy (love, happiness), and how it's a person's friendships and family that count as their true legacy, not their monetary fortune. There's little objectionable content, but the movie's messages and themes about a well-lived life and the importance of family over fortune are best suited for tweens and up. There's one violent scene when a main character fights in World War II and is shot (but survives his injury), as well as some flirting and kissing and infrequent use of words like "hell."
What's the story?
THE ULTIMATE LIFE takes place three years after the events depicted in The Ultimate Gift: Jason Stevens (Logan Bartholomew) is juggling being the head of his billionaire grandfather's family foundation, dealing with a lawsuit from his greedy relatives, and wanting to marry his girlfriend, single mom/nurse Alexia (Ali Hillis). When Alexia takes off to work for a charity overseas, Jason is despondent until family friend Hamilton (Bill Cobb) gives him his late grandfather's journal to guide him. The journal chronicles Red's rags-to-riches story from poor Louisiana ice delivery boy to rich Texas oilman. Inspired by Andrew Carnegie, Red sets out to make a fortune, only to discover that being a billionaire isn't what truly makes him rich.
Is it any good?
This is the kind of inspiring, feel-good, mildly sermonizing movie that would work either as a Hallmark special or (with more overt references to God and scripture) as a Sunday school presentation. In those contexts, the movie provides exactly what you'd expect: a simple storyline with heartwarming lessons for men about how to be a good husband, father, friend, and man. But unless it's the object of a church-approved outing, the movie, directed by Michael Landon Jr., isn't nuanced or entertaining enough to merit the price of admission.
With its predictable plot and uneven acting (the cast includes quality veterans in small roles and a couple of unimpressive newcomers in bigger parts), The Ultimate Life suffers from being even less compelling than its predecessor, which at the very least had a more dynamic actor (Drew Fuller) playing Jason and a more interesting story of him having to "earn" his inheritance. This flashback to Red's ambitious journey to becoming a self-made man is far from Citizen Kane. It's just a corny portrayal of how money is great, but it's not what brings lasting happiness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Ultimate Life's messages. What do you think the filmmakers are trying to say about fortune and family? What makes a person rich?
Red disregards a principal's advice because the man is educated but makes little money. Do you think someone's salary is the only measure of professional or personal success?
Why are rags-to-riches stories so compelling? What makes Red change his priorities? How does Red's journal influence his grandson, Jason?