Must-watch: ‘The Ultimate Gift’ explores the true meaning of Christmas

Luci Schwarz

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Rating: 5 stars 

 Warning: Ahead there are some spoilers for the 2006 film “The Ultimate Gift.” Proceed with caution if you have not yet seen it. The reporter has done her best to remain vague. 

     How many true friends does a person have? Does wealth bring happiness? In this world, what truly matters to you? The 2006 film “The Ultimate Gift,” based on the novel by Jim Stovall, seeks to answer all three of these difficult questions in under two-hours. 

     While not officially labeled a Christmas film, this story contains major plot points around the holiday season, which serve well to remind all of us of the true meaning of Christmas.  

     In a year overshadowed by a global pandemic, riots and protests, surging unemployment and so much more, it is crucial that we remember the good in this world and what genuinely matters. 

     Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) is a cocky young adult living his life both frivolously and recklessly. He also belongs to a family of equally narcissistic and affluent individuals who have never worked a day in their lives and who most definitely encourage his selfish behavior.  

     After the passing of his wealthy oil tycoon of a grandfather, Red Stevens (James Garner), Jason expects to receive a massive inheritance but is surprised to find that what has been left for him is not money but rather a series of twelve “gifts.” Some of these “gifts” are month-long tasks that Jason must complete; if he fails an assignment, he will receive nothing from his grandfather’s will.  

     Red has prerecorded a series of messages for Jason to watch in hopes that as he works through the list he will gain insight and find what truly matters to him.  

     The “gifts,” in order of completion, are the following: The Gift of Work, the Gift of Money, the Gift of Friends, the Gift of Learning, the Gift of Problems, the Gift of Family, the Gift of Laughter, the Gift of Dreams, the Gift of Giving, the Gift of Gratitude, the Gift of a Day and the Gift of Love. 

     This story begins with a self-absorbed young man but ends with a mature adult who has undergone a journey of discovery and opened his eyes to see that the world has more to offer beyond wealth.  

     Achieving this mentality is greatly motivated after Jason accidentally meets spunky young Emily (Abigail Breslin), who suffers from leukemia. 

     Emily and her mother, Alexia, quickly become interested in Jason after he begs Emily to pretend to be his friend so he can pass stage three of his tasks: the Gift of Friendship.  

     Little did he know that this faux relationship would develop into something authentic. Over time, he slowly becomes a father figure to Emily as her condition worsens. 

Abigail Breslin as Emily.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

     This relationship only begins because Jason has no true friends. This particular task asked Jason to bring a genuine friend to Red’s lawyer to demonstrate their friendship, and by this point in the movie he has found himself homeless and penniless as a result of Red’s wishes. In a stupor, he realizes that everyone he thought was his friend was merely using him for his money or only hung out with him because he had cool, materialistic items.  

     This begs the question for viewers: how many true friends do you have? At your lowest, when you have nothing to give in return, who will be there for you? The people that come to mind are the ones we should lean upon and remember to appreciate. 

     Jason finds himself to be capable of more than he ever dreamed of as he appreciates the value behind a perfect day, building a family, laughter, dreams and more.  

     The holiday season can be a busy time of year, especially after the multiple terrible events of 2020. But the morals present in this movie could not be more relevant now, as several millions of people have found themselves jobless and hurting.  

     A user in the comment section of YouTube wrote that “this was the ultimate gift for [them] during this pandemic,” while others wrote that this was “a criminally underrated movie.” Another expressed the wish that directors would continue to make movies “of substance such as this.” 

     If you are looking for a tear-inducing film that will inspire you this holiday season, or any season really, then “The Ultimate Gift” is a must-watch! 

     “The Ultimate Gift” is available to watch for free on the following platforms: YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, Vudu and Tubi.