The Ultimate Gift is so resolutely “good for you” that watching it is a lot like eating Brussels sprouts—except, however, that Michael O. Sajbel’s adaptation of Jim Stovall’s bestseller is so mind-numbingly simplistic and predictable that it requires passive staring instead of active watching. Crudely and cornily delineating good and bad, and indulging in homilies and moral sermons like they were in jeopardy of going extinct, this helping of wholesome TV movie-ish pablum focuses on the Amazing Race-style game forced upon spoiled rich kid Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) by the videotaped will of his dead billionaire grandfather Red (James Garner), who seeks to give his playboy kin a series of gifts leading up to the titular one. What this entails is unhappy Jason being forced to work on a cattle ranch, struggle to subsist as a homeless man, live out his Midnight Express nightmares on one of Ecuador’s drug dealer mountains, and give generously à la Brewster’s Millions, all tasks aimed at teaching lessons that Jason—a strong candidate for Dumbest. Person. Ever.—takes forever to grasp. Along his journey, he also encounters Abigail Breslin as a bald-from-chemo leukemia patient who plays matchmaker with Jason and her mom, spends time at the hospital rectory talking about how God personally hand-paints every one of the world’s butterflies, and generally runs her spunky Little Miss Sunshine routine into the ground. The Ultimate Gift earnestly preaches that money doesn’t equal happiness, but what truly fails to elicit joy is cinema this doggedly, condescendingly unsophisticated, a trait that’s agonizingly apparent throughout and then gratuitously reconfirmed during a final credits clip compilation of key message-imparting scenes that would have served as a sufficient substitute for actually enduring the preceding two hours.
- Fox Faith
- 117 min
- Michael O. Sajbel
- Cheryl McKay
- James Garner, Drew Fuller, Abigail Breslin, Lee Meriwether, Ali Hillis, Brian Dennehy, Bill Cobbs
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: