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Movie Review

The Ultimate Gift

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some violence and language

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Better than Average
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Primary Audience:
Adults Teens Family
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 9, 2007
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, 20th Century Fox

Gifts in the Bible


A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer


Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

How can I spend my money more wisely? Answer

Does the Bible share any wisdom about investing? Answer

Featuring: Drew Fuller, James Garner, Ali Hillis, Abigail Breslin, Lee Meriwether, Brian Dennehy, Mircea Monroe, Donna Cherry, D. David Morin
Director: Michael O. Sajbel
Producer: Paul Brooks, Rick Eldridge, Rick Eldridge, Cleve Landsberg, Dave Ross, John Shepherd, Jim Van Eerden
Distributor: 20th Century Fox, The Bigger Picture

“Some things are worth more than money.”

“The Ultimate Gift” is a beautiful film based upon the book of the same name by author Jim Stovell. The profound insights in his book have given many the world over the keys that continue to unlock incredible new hope, joy and meaning in the lives of individuals and families, as well as schools and public service organizations across the globe.

Some may not know that Jim Stovell is blind and has overcome his blindness to become a national champion Olympic weightlifter, investment broker, author, and motivational speaker.

Howard “Red” Stevens (James Garner) was a self-made multi-millionaire who gave his family everything—and ruined his children and most of his grandchildren in the process. Now, upon his death, his estate of oil companies and cattle ranches is being divided among his greedy, self-serving relatives, but one member is singled out for a chance to do something special: Red’s pampered eldest grandson, Jason (Drew Fuller).

Jason is a spoiled, over-indulged young man who, because of the wealth of his grandfather, has never had a job or one responsibility in his life. Spending pretty much his whole adult life becoming a self-absorbed snob, Jason truly thinks that without money you’re nothing. He believes because of money he can live a completely worry free life. He is surrounded by weak hangers-on, who he thinks are his best friends, and a girlfriend, although he can’t see it, who obviously wants him only for the lavish lifestyle he can provide.

His grandfather’s trusted, life-long friend and lawyer, Theophillus Hamilton (Bill Cobbs), along with his secretary, Miss Hastings (Lee Meriwether), dispenses the provisions of Red’s Will to a crowd of money hungry relatives and asks them all to leave, until, at the last Jason is the only one left in the room. Through a DVD made for presentation to Jason from his grandfather, Jason is informed that Red wants to give him a series of gifts leading up to the ultimate gift, which Jason, of course, assumes will be truck loads of money.

One of the best gifts Jason gets out his 12 month quest is the friendship of a little girl named Emily (Abigail Breslin from “Little Miss Sunshine”) and her mother Alexia (Alli Hillis). Not to spoil the impact of the story, for those who haven’t read the book, this special bond sets the stage for the meaning of sacrifice, the comfort and love that only Jesus can provide, that Jason must learn to reach the finish line Red has set for him.

“The Ultimate Gift” takes the viewer through Jason’s incredible journey to gain his grandfather Red’s vast inheritance—through a series of challenges, or as Red puts it “gifts.” Yet, the true meaning of these gifts are meant for Jason to experience every step of the way. In each struggle and accomplishment there is a valuable life lesson for Jason—and for the audience to learn, as well.

It ultimately becomes Jason’s 12-month search for purpose and meaning that has captivated millions of readers throughout the world, and with it’s opening on March 9th, 2007, as a film, becomes the basis to help build character and vibrant spirits in the minds and hearts of those who will experience the inspiring insights that unfold through this stirring story. A must see for families with school age children.

Lest we be confused by the “gifts” referred to in this film, they are not the same “gifts of the spirit” spoken of within the pages of scripture. The gifts referred to in “The Ultimate Gift” are gifts we relate to mostly from man’s life here on earth and are closely related to the push for Character Counts in schools today. These character traits are those such as friendship, hard work, generosity, following your dreams, etcetera. But, in the mix of gifts in this film are those gifts from a heavenly plane such as unconditional love, forgiveness, comfort, joy and wisdom.

20th Century Fox Entertainment has done a great job giving us a family-friendly film that teaches something commendable to all age groups. Great music has been selected from well-known musical artists, Christian and non-Christian, including Bob Dylan, Patsy Cline, Switchfoot, Dan Carey and Sia Furler and also Sara Groves.

Yet, “The Ultimate Gift” might have a few things that prove objectionable to some parents, such as:

This movie does contain a hint at adultery. Because of the storyline, itself, there is an abundance of disrespect for elders, selfishness, revenge, greed and other self-consuming emotions some may see as sin. And the gift of “gladness” is associated with the drinking of some intoxicating Ecuadorian brew.

Although no foul language, the word “hell” is said once. The phrases: “cut the b.s.” and “screw him… screw both of you!”, are in the script. Jason’s character has an electric “cow prod” zapped to his butt to get him out of bed, and a hint given to drug use is inferred when another character asks, “Are you on crack, Jason …again?”

The things I found most uplifting—for a film ready to be shown in the secular market—are scenes which show Emily, her Mom and eventually even Jason in the Hospital Chapel, reverently sitting before a statue of Jesus. 10 year old Emily believes with all her heart Heaven is a place filled with lots of butterflies, and that God Himself paints every color on each butterfly with His Own Fingers. Jason says, “I don’t know much about God or Jesus, but I can promise you His arms are meant for you!”

Red says, “You can teach someone what character is. You can tell them “do this! Do that” but at some point, the gifts need input, intuition, dreams. One needs to be free to dream, then act on it. Even if you don’t have a dream of your own, you can give dreams to others—help them to fulfill their dreams!”

So, what is character? Can it be borrowed or bought? Perhaps stolen? Does it suddenly appear through a strange form of osmosis? More importantly, can it be learned in a public school classroom?

None of the above. Not begged, borrowed, or stolen. True spiritual character is never learned from a mere secular human source, but earned. Earned through doing and living within God’s gentle tutorial—The Bible. No classroom assignments or any amount of school assemblies and blue ribbons can make that character stick.

Red Stevens did the right thing, in a loving way, for his grandson Jason. He had him “do” and experience—for, in the doing of it, he learned the reality of it. Doing it—living it out and having the doing and the living form the eternal glue, allowing it to stick to the very heart and soul. This bond of true compassion and care for the humankind that God has created to dwell upon His Earth—filters on up from us to the very God who created all forms of character in the first place.

What if you were to make a DVD as Red did for Jason, of your life, and what if you were to show it to your friends and family. You’d be proud of certain moments: your hands extending to help, to give a gift, preparing a meal, doctoring a wound. Then there will be the moments spent taking more than giving, demanding, instead of offering. There is power in doing. Power in our hands to help or hurt. Leave those hands unmanaged by God and they become weapons that claw for power, strangling for survival, seducing for pleasure. But let God manage your hands, through which your character flows, and they will become instruments of grace—not tools in the hands of God, but God’s very hands!

“But those who do right will continue to do right, and those whose hands are not dirty with sin will grow stronger” Job 17:9.

Just because, like Jason, we have been given many opportunities and advantages in life, doesn’t mean we’re going to make the most of them. Imagine our lives without the touch of Jesus. Even if we had character to spare taught to us in school, it would not be enough. No hope. No acts of kindness. No words of love. No more deeds done in His Honor.

“He who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” Revelation 2:26.

God will place His Character within our hearts, not after we’ve read a million books on the subject or passed a million written tests, but only after we have served Him—served others with no thought of ourselves, truly given our personal time and sweat. Then we have served God and our fellow man—then the gift of character can truly be given from above.

Whether great things or small, let’s make the most out of what God has given us. Let’s teach it to our children. Lord, help us to be people who not only know You and Your Word, but also desire with all our hearts to live according to it.

The character we seek to instill in our children cannot be the total responsibility of the public school classroom. Family must take charge of a large, if not total, process of teaching God’s guidelines for character. Then and only then, will character truly “count,” because the God who blessed it and caused it into being has blessed you and your kids with The ultimate gift of His love and sacrifice.

“It’s time for positive family values to impact those in Hollywood, instead of Hollywood impacting family values,” said Dove Foundation Co-Founder/Director Dick Rolfe.

The Dove Foundation awarded its highest rating and the Dove Family Approved seal to “The Ultimate Gift, the 20th Century Fox release which opens in theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada this weekend. Don’t miss it!

Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—A film that takes you across the full range of emotions on a Journey that feels like Life.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Jim Van Eerden, age 42
Positive—Wow. My family and I see a lot of movies over the year, and this one is one of the best we have seen. Each of us loved it (2 adults, a teenager, and 9 year old). This is a great family film that teaches the values of hardwork, friendship, helping those in need and dangers of living a life drivin by the possesions and money.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Bruce, age 47
Positive—After viewing this film, my husband and I agreed that although it demonstrated many high ideals and was a great challenge as far as personal sacrifice for others, it ultimately was a message rooted in philanthropic giving, not Christian humility and self-sacrifice for the glory of God. Great story; good message; but not the “ultimate gift” we expected to be portrayed in the main character’s life (based on the strong reviews put forth from the Christian community). The other strong caution we want to vocalize is that there were many scenes involving extremely immodest women, and this was not mentioned in any of the reviews we had access to. Even though it was part of the characters' lifestyle, it could have been portrayed with much more discretion, and we would caution any parents against bringing their teenaged sons to the film. It is an unnecessary exposure, and those images are the ones we both still have fixed in our minds when thinking about the film. Viewed at home with remote in hand would be the best way to enjoy this film. The message is still clear without these scenes, and they are not brief.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Cathy Gluntz, age 41
Positive—An excellent film in the older tradition where films were allowed to acknowledge Christianity as a part of culture and a part of people’s lives as was more popular in, say, films from the 1940’s. At the same time, there’s no hitting over the head with it. The focus of the film is not Christianity; it is simply a part of it. The gift themes are universal and fit within a Christian framework, but can also be valued by non-Christians as well.

I highly recommend this movie which had the movie goers applauding at the end. It’s a movie you can take both Christian and Non-Christian friends to, and both will enjoy it. The film is very funny, poignant, has some sadness, and is ultimately a feel good movie that will make you glad you spent your time watching it.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Bill Bagot, age 41
Positive—This was a wonderful movie. It showed that people can change and make a difference in the lives of many people. The transformation of the main character Jason was heartwarming. Just watching him with the little girl was enough to make me go see it again. I absolutely loved this movie and would highly recommend it to anyone. I did not hear any foul language other than the word “Hell.” This was a rare experience to see this movie, and all I can say is go see it and take some Kleenex, too.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Lori, age 43
Positive—What a refreshing and touching movie! Not a message about the ultimate gift of salvation, but defintely about the values that come out of a walk with the Lord making a difference in our life and the lives around us. The one thing I’d like to mention is that I had debated bringing my 8 year old daughter to see this with me, and am I glad that I previewed it—I really think the little girl dying would have been too much for her emotionally but would love for her to see it when she gets just a little bit older. I very much recommend seeing it, and hope that Hollywood gets the message to make more films like this one.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Tammy, age 36
Positive—This is a great uplifting movie. If you are going to the movies, this is one of the few choices you have as a christian trying to guard your mind from the evil and sin found throughout most movies aimed at adults. Even though “The Ultimate Gift” might not satisfy all christians, it is a great movie to bring non-believers to. It kind of sneaks in Christianity in a non-offensive way. I know some people might not agree that this is a good thing, I believe it is. I went to this movie with a friend who is a non-believer, and I believe it is a great testimony to her that this is the kind of movie I am willing to see instead of the usual R-rated movie most adults prefer. This movie also makes viewers look at their own beliefs and values, and I believe this gives a great oppurtunity to discuss them. I was a little worried my friend might not like it, but it turns out she really enjoyed the movie. The down side of this movie is that it could have been made better. It was predictable at times, some of the acting could have been better, and seemed to drag on at points. However, these points are irrelevant considering the benefits of this movie.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 3
—Elicia, age 29
Positive—I heard a comment on this movie before I took my family to see this movie. It said that the movie was too “preachy,” and after watching the movie I felt that it was weak in its Christian message. I then relized that I was looking at it from a differant angle than the intended audience. I feel this movie has a much better chance for impact on the younger person who tends to be more rebelous and head strong when it comes to authority. The movie plants the seed and it is up to Christians to lead the person to Christ. Depending on your walk with Christ, you may feel the Christian message is too strong or too weak, but it does plant that seed. I think this movie was the best I have watched in a long time, and I look forward to being able to share it with friends when it is released on DVD.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Ronnie Youngblood, age 41
Positive—This was a wonderful movie. It surprises you throughout the movie. This story made Jason change in ways that surprised even him. The kindness in Jason’s heart finally surfaces when he meets Emily and her mother. This just proves you can’t judge people by the first appearance. One other thing that really sticks out in this movie, is that no matter what type of family you grew up in, it does not have to determine who you become. This was an outstanding movie that is all about making right decisions, learning a lesson from each decision and becoming the best person you can be. This is a movie about transformations and genuine love. Please take everyone you can think of to this movie and bring plenty of Kleenex. I would have to say this is a must see movie and Hollywood should make more like this. Just a great movie with great lessons involved. As a Christian, I would highly recommend this movie. I found nothing offensive or objectionable in this movie.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Lori, age 43
Positive—This movie made me laugh, made me cry, but never once made me cringe. It’s a beautiful story!! Something I think adults, teens and kids will love. No need to keep your finger on the fast forward button. Totally enjoyed it!
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Monica, age 30
Positive—Amazing!!!… This movie will grab your heart and squeeze it like a sponge. I waited to rent it because it has language in it, we have the guardian on our DVD player. Which takes out profanity. Anyway, this is a must see movie. You will get on your knees after watching this movie and thank GOD for all of the blessings that HE has given you! If things are bad in your life, you will see that they could be much worse! God is awesome, and I think that this movie shows how HE works with us and teaches us HIS way not ours! You must go and rent this movie, NOW! *One thing, in the beginning of the movie Jason says the word screw 2 times back to back. I really didn’t like that! But overall Awesome movie!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Melissa Poole, age 33
Positive—I liked the film and primarily saw it for James Garner and Abigail Breslin. It was an enjoyable film that kept my interest and was better than I expected it to be. Even though I’m a Christian, I’ve seen a few Christian-marketed films that, in my opinion, were sub-par as far as filmmaking, and this was not one of them.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Jennifer, age 30
Positive—Awesome! This movie was absolutely incredible! My entire family loved it and I have not only purchased the book, but have also joined the Web site and am becoming involved in the movement. The book is a little different from the film, but the book is exceptional and a great tool for bringing the gifts into better focus. The journey that you go on with the young man will inspire you and move you to tears. If you see only one movie this year—or ever—make it “The Ultimate Gift.”
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Stephanie Partridge, age 40
Positive—“The Ultimate Gift” is a really cute, fun movie. There is an excellent message that hard work, family, and things like that are what matter most, but wealth isn’t demonized either. …Also, I do have one main complaint. As with SOOOOOOOOOO many other films nowadays that contain kids, the little girl in the movie was a brat! Some may argue because of her (so I won’t spoil the film) I will call it, circumstance, that she has a right to be nasty, but she was OVER THE TOP with her attitude and quite frankly, I have had it with this craze in our culture where kids act smarter than adults, and even make it known how stupid the adults in their lives are. She was no exception and actually seemed to raise the bar in that department. The film didn’t “shove” Christianity in your face, but I do like that it did have a couple of scenes in a chapel with a figure of Jesus that different characters would look at while talking about heaven or a non vulgar reference to Jesus. I think it’s easy as a Christian to look through our lens and notice the lacking in “preaching” while I almost think it’s nicer to a lost world and more palatable if the “preaching” is left to a minimum, and they just see the lifestyle lived out. And, as has been stated, there is one woman who does dress in a revealing way, which could have been toned down. …
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Angelica, age 22
Positive—I LOVED this movie! At first I thought this movie started out slow, than I got to the middle and was completely “wowed”! It was filled with so much heart and truth. I recomend it for all ages!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Beth, age 19
Positive—THE ULTIMATE GIFT is a good Hallmark Masterpiece Theater. With a fine pedigree of actors, the script just need some work to elevated it from MADE FOR TV to COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU, even though it was shown in theater across the country. The story itself is great but the events surrounds the main character just doesn’t seemed believable and it drags along. It played out like it supposed to, according to the term and series of event layout, literally step-by-step.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
—Mang Yang, age 35
Neutral—My biggest problem with this movie was that it was pitched as a “Christian” film, when there were only few vague references to God and one mention of “Jesus” but nothing more than a basic “God loves you” type message that was never expounded on. On top of this, the two promiscuous women were wearing very immodest clothing, and while I was willing to throw it off at first, it seemed to get worse throughout the film, and I became very disturbed by this. There is always a way to show a person’s wrong character without showing so much skin.

Other than this, compared to other Hollywood films, it was a good—but not great—movie with a decent storyline of family/friends/human relationships are most important as well as being a good friend/family member/person. I would have rated it better had it been advertised as a secular movie, which after watching it, I would consider it to be. I had a few good laughs, but the ending was depressing, even more than the last comic scene could take care of. I have to mention too, that other “REAL” Christian films leave you inspired, they connect God and Jesus to the Bible and give you some kind of Biblical insight, this movie clearly had none of these points and I feel that Fox Faith is using Christians to make money for their own purposes—and for anyone who reads this who is with Fox Faith I ask Where is YOUR Faith? Why don’t you make a REAL Christian movie—Like “Facing the Giants,” “The Moment After” or “Time Changer,” where you can really see the Godly Christian hearts of the people in the script, that are evangelistic and uplifting.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3½
—Angela, age 28
Neutral—While I think that there were a lot of good sentiments in this film, what kept bothering me was the fact that “the ultimate gift” refers to what the grandfather was able to give his grandson by the end of the movie… which basically came down to him “being a good person.” One scene depicted the grandson mentioning Jesus, but I don’t remember his character as being portrayed as someone who had a relation hip with Jesus. There is only ONE ultimate gift, and that is the one given to us by Jesus. If that’s not the gift that you are accepting, all other gifts might as well be labled 'return to sender.'
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3½
—Jennifer Constantine, age 30


Comments from young people
Positive—This is a wonderful movie, and I am very pleased with it. First of all, the only thing I can think of that was objectionable was the the kissing scenes (three, I believe) and the main character’s former girl friend’s choice of clothing. I thought all the actors did excellent, especially the little girl who had cancer.

It was a very touching, yet interesting story put together. It shows compassion, kindness, and putting others first, and much more. “The Ultimate Gift” is definitely a movie my family can watch together, and feel glad that we watched it.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Rachel Stromer, age 16
Positive—A truly beautiful film. The only language is a few snotty comments made by Jason when he is still a disrespectful brat. It is pretty cool to see his huge transformation from that to a real man by the end credits. A drug reference is mentioned when a character asks Jason if he’s on crack, which he was. Apparently, it is also made clear that it wasn’t the first time. To sum it all up, I’ll simply say that this movie is a good investment of your time and money. Terrific acting, terrific plot, terrific message… terrific movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joseph Hughey, age 14