Making the Grades
Given a chance to pass on the ultimate gift to your progeny, what would it be? Money, prominence, property, status? Upon his death, Red Steven's (James Garner) family is anxious to see what the billionaire has left each of them. But at the reading of his will, the roomful of ingrates is sorely disappointed, even with their lavish estates, ranches and company holdings. In the end, they all wanted more.
But none of the beneficiaries is more surprised than Jason (Drew Fuller), Red's carousing grandson. Expecting a wad of cold, hard cash to continue his extravagant lifestyle with, the sullen and spoiled young man is instead shown a sealed box. From it, his grandfather's business partner, Ted Hamilton (Bill Cobbs), takes a single disc and plays a pre-recorded message where Red challenges Jason to complete a series of tests that will lead to the eventual bestowal of an ultimate gift. Initially, the overindulged youth isn't interested in doing anything that requires effort on his part, but finally his pampered girlfriend (Mircea Monroe) badgers him into taking on the experiment.
Luckily, Ted and his assistant, Miss Hastings (Lee Meriwether), are uncommonly patient with the boy who regularly balks at the difficult tasks meant to give him an intrinsic appreciation for things like love, problem-solving, gratitude and hard work.
Accustomed to having every wish granted on a silver tray, Jason is angry when he finds himself setting fence posts on an expansive cattle ranch in Texas -- especially after being nudged out of bed with a zap from a cattle prod. From there he traverses the world to the dense, jungle forests of Ecuador. Along the way, he encounters South American drug lords who roughly throw him in a makeshift prison and threaten to shoot him and his guide. Later, back in America, the lessons continue as he meets a homeless man in the city park and a young mother (Ali Hillis) with a precocious daughter named Emily (Abigail Breslin) who is wise beyond her years.
Although slow at times, Jason's transformation from self-centered youth to a mature, caring adult begins to unfold. For parents and teens, these life-altering changes may spark discussions on the value of the twelve gifts Red wishes to impart. And while not everyone has the funds needed to orchestrate these types of exceptional experiences, hopefully, the film will inspire parents and grandparents to consider what contributions they can ultimately pass on to the next generation.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Ultimate Gift.
Who is responsible for Jason’s self-absorbed attitude? What part did the adults in his life have in indulging him? In what ways is he personally accountable? Why does his grandfather give Jason the ultimate gift challenge?
How does Emily’s situation make her appreciate life? What does Jason learn from her? Do you think his changed attitude will be permanent?
The film is based on a book by John Stovall, which has inspired a movement of change. A facilitator’s guide for parents, youth leaders and educators has been developed to go along with the movie and book. For a free download of The Ultimate Gift activity-based guide, designed for 12 to 18-year-olds, visit: http://www.youthfilmproject.org/documents/TheUltimateGiftActivityGuide.pdf .