The Ultimate Gift

Christian fundamentalists kill James Garner!

In the latest release from the faith-based division of 20th Century Fox, an oil-richbillionaire (James Garner) kicks the bucket and leaves a special bequest for his trust-fund-suckling grandson (Drew Fuller)—a gauntlet of hard work and hardship designed to give the boy an appreciation for the true value of a greenback. Among the tasks: toughing it out as a Texas ranch hand; living as a homeless person; and showing some genuine compassion for a debt-addled single mom (Ali Hillis) and her leukemia-stricken daughter (Abigail Breslin). If he succeeds, the "ultimate gift" of the movie's title will be his—which, in case you haven't figured it out, is one of those things you can't buy with a MasterCard. Directed with accomplished impersonality by Michael O. Sajbel (One Night With the King), TheUltimate Gift means well and has a few surprises in store—this is not a movie you expect to climax in a tense jungle stand-off with Ecuadorian drug runners—but too often feels like yet another self-flagellating Hollywood lesson in the corrosive power of wealth and the benefits of getting down with the real soul people. It's The Pursuit of Happyness made from the ivory tower looking down instead of from the street looking up. SCOTT FOUNDAS

 
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