Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
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!
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.