Critic’s Corner Columnist
“The Ultimate Gift” is about trust fund baby Jason Stevens. After his grandfather Howard “Red” Stevens’ death, Jason is told that, much to his surprise, he has a piece of the inheritance of the multibillion-dollar estate left for him in his grandfather’s will.
However, in order to receive it he must first earn it by completing a series of tasks focused on a particular gift under the instruction of Red’s attorney and friend Mr. Hamilton. The tasks greatly challenge Jason and the way he has lived his life, but over the course of the film, they also help him to grow morally and as a person.
One of the many things this film does well is it not only creates a vast variety of characters, but it also knows how to introduce them.
One of the opening scenes is the funeral of the wealthy Red, with his family and many others in attendance. The scene shows two of his sons conversing and it is clear that they and the rest of the family don’t care about Red’s passing. Jason arrives late to the funeral, making a disruptive entrance. From these two instances, the movie establishes the character of the family and lays out clearly to the audience the atmosphere of the family and what they ultimately care about.
Importantly, this scene also highlights Jason’s character very well, showing that he is cocky and has little respect for anyone. One doesn’t have to guess the type of person he is or what kind of family he comes from; his first appearance does that for him and also introduces the main conflict, if you will — how to change this cocky man into someone who is worthy of his inheritance.
The casting for the film was also very good, even for the actors who had smaller roles, such as Gus, whom Jason meets toward the beginning of the movie, and Jason’s girlfriend, Caitlin. They play minor characters but do it so incredibly well that they are memorable. They are noticeable when they are on screen and truly add to the film and make it livelier.
For example, Caitlin’s ulterior motive is obvious to the audience, but she is good at subtly fooling Jason into believing her sincerity, and Gus’s humor and charm make moments more enjoyable.
Drew Fuller, who plays Jason, also does a very good job with bringing his character to life and truly makes it look believable. He depicts Jason’s transition well because he makes it gradual; it doesn’t happen overnight. That kind of change in a character is not easy to do but Fuller truly made it his own by having few changes throughout the film. He doesn’t do anything huge but changes his personality slowly, which helps it to feel very real
“The Ultimate Gift” avoids one of the most common mistakes Christian movies on morality make: trying too hard. The majority of Christian films that attempt to incorporate lessons fall into the trap of trying to bring your attention to something, mainly religion, to the point where they are shoving it down your throat in the most cliché way passible. It also doesn’t help their case that the dialogue is so forced that the audience cringes.
Yet “The Ultimate Gift” doesn’t make that mistake. Instead, it focuses more on the story than getting a point across or an agenda. It incorporates lessons or gifts, as they are called in the movie, as naturally as the air we breathe. It doesn’t attempt to bring too much attention to the lessons it holds; it presents them as a way of shaping its protagonist into a better person, which is how a movie should be. The morals are not the protagonist of this film; Jason is, which helps it be natural and enjoyable. However, there are some aspects of the film that could have used more detail and attention, such as Jason’s relationship with his father and grandfather when he was a kid. The audience is told little besides what is in a letter Jason wrote when he was 10, and even that is very brief. The filmmakers may have been limited by time, but it would have helped the audience to understand Jason’s character better and also give him more depth.
His later relationship with Alexia and how it develops could have also used more attention and growth, so it doesn’t seem like she trusts him with little reason to do so. If a little more development was given to these areas, it would have been one of those details that helps the film to come even more alive.
“The Ultimate Gift” is a beautifully made film that will have you laughing through its humor, Jason’s challenges and the situations he finds himself in, while learning just as he does. With its excellent introduction to the characters and the acting that brings the characters to life, it is a truly enjoyable yet simple film. It is a film you can watch over and over and still enjoy just as much as the first time.