"A People's Film"
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I saw a special screening of The Ultimate Gift, the latest release from Fox Faith. (The movie is dedicated to the memory of Clete Childs, a student at our daughter's school who died a year and a half ago in a car accident.) Based on Jim Stovall's book of the same name, the Capraesque film tells the story of a trust fund brat who must perform a series of tasks designed to help him grow as a man in order to receive an inheritance, a.k.a. "The Ultimate Gift," from his late grandfather.
With an excellent cast that includes James Garner (reportedly his last film), Brian Dennehy, and the Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), the movie uses sometimes over-the-top characters and far-fetched plot twists to weave its message of redemption. Still, it's an engaging story told from a Christian worldview that doesn't whack you over the head.
That hasn't stopped some critics from blasting the film for its moral messages. ...
The New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis wrote, "Reeking of self-righteousness and moral reprimand ... [the film] is a hairball of good-for-you filmmaking coughed up by ... Fox Faith." The Chicago Tribune's Lou Carlozo added, "There's an anti-abortion message jammed into one scene with all the subtlety of an avalanche," in reference to a scene where a single mother simply says that giving birth to her daughter "was the best decision" she ever made.
Ultimate Gift producer Rick Eldridge has responded that it "is a people's film, not a critic's film. And there is, increasingly, a big difference between those two things."
If you've seen it, let us know what you think. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend that you do so.