Thanks to actors like Garner, Cobbs and the Oscar-nominated Breslin, who all give phenomenal performances, the film works, for the most part.  It has a strong message about redemption and reconciliation and the things that really matter in life, as well as a professional feel.  Unfortunately, Fuller – upon whose handsome shoulder’s most of this film rests – doesn’t give a particularly impressive performance until midway through the film, which dampers things.  Until he gets in touch with his inner nice guy, his anger simply comes across as fake.  But once he’s into the more touchy-feely scenes, he does a great job.

While not bad, much of the script is clichéd (like the book, apparently), but it works – save for a bizarre detour into South America, which feels like it’s been lifted from another movie.  The biggest problem is Sajbel’s direction.  He lingers too long with his shots and leaves actors like Meriwether standing around, looking superfluous.  The homeless scenes weren’t particularly realistic and Jason “learns” his lessons far too easily.  One month of hard labor, for example, and suddenly he appreciates the meaning of work.  He makes one friend (who happens to be dying) and suddenly he’s loyal and true. 

There was also an editing issue, with Emily appearing at the beginning of the film, during the funeral, although she had yet to be introduced as a character (and had no reason to be there).  Also, the end includes a bizarre video clip that doesn't jive with the rest of the film.  On the other hand, the cinematography (shot in Charlotte, NC) is actually quite interesting, with lots of blues and grays that give everything an edgy feel.

The Ultimate Gift has a great message which might well be used as an evangelism tool.  Those who enjoy Hallmark-style fare will certainly appreciate it.  It’s also appropriate for anyone looking to instigate talk about the deeper issues of life. 

AUDIENCE:  Older children and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A few scenes with wine and/or champagne.
  • Language/Profanity:  None.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Kissing in several scenes; one brief scene where woman goes into bedroom, ostensibly to prepare for sex, but man leaves (she is seen from the shoulders up wearing a negligee).
  • Violence:  Arguing; tense family arguing; man is homeless and sleeps on park bench; characters are held at gunpoint, kidnapped by South American drug lords then held hostage and threatened with death before escaping; man is beaten, but mostly off-screen; some fighting and gunshots but without any deaths.