Friday, August 24, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift is a "Message Movie" and as such I suppose it may be a little corny for some, but get over it because if you have a problem with the message in this movie you might consider taking a vacation. It's a refreshing break in the all too common formula of gratuitous sex and/or violence that dominates screens large and small these days.

"Suspension of disbelief" is a wonderful thing for movie fans. It allows you to believe, if only for a moment, that Arnold Schwarzenegger can pilot a harrier jet and rescue his daughter from rabid terrorists atop a skyscraper, that a high school senior can enlist the whole city of Chicago in the entertainment of two friends, that Jack Black can be a romantic interest, and that a wealthy oilman and cattle rancher can create a twelve-step obstacle course to craft a worthy successor from a would-be spoiled-brat grandson, posthumously no less.

Despite the movie's made-for-TV production values and simplistic storyline, this movie makes you believe, in no small part due to the selection of cast members and their solid performances.

Drew Fuller skillfully takes you through the gradual transition of his character from rotten billionaire playboy to homeless desperado to visionary benefactor. His character's interplay with the precocious young Emily played by Abigail Breslin is mostly sweet and heartfelt - you may remember her from Little Miss Sunshine for which she won an Oscar. She appeared here first though.

Emily's mom, played by Ali Hillis, delivers a moving portrayal of a single mom, losing a desperate battle with her daughter's leukemia, holding in the balance the only family she has.

James Garner, who I think has gotten better with age, plays a deceased patriarch whose only failure in life is his family, with one exception, and one last chance for redemption, his grandson. He enlists his posse, not the least of which is played by Brian Dennehy, who lends substantial weight to the film.

The music, which includes a well-placed track by Bob Dylan, is excellent, the direction as well. Don't miss the full credits during which you revisit each gift, highlighted with short segments of the film.

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