You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Movies

  • Sibling chemistry a natural fit
    LOS ANGELES – In the new big-screen adaption of the best-selling Jonathan Topper novel “This Is Where I Leave You,” Tina Fey and Jason Bateman portray siblings with tight ties that bind.
  • Sibling chemistry a natural fit
    LOS ANGELES – In the new big-screen adaption of the best-selling Jonathan Topper novel “This Is Where I Leave You,” Tina Fey and Jason Bateman portray siblings with tight ties that bind.
  • Plot fails in reality-bender
    'The Congress'1/2 Two half-realized visions of near-future horrors don't add up to much of a whole in “The Congress,” Ari Folman's mixture of live action and animation that follows his
Advertisement

Movie Review: Poor production values among biggest sins of faith film

'The Ultimate Life'

The message of "The Ultimate Life" could be summed up on a greeting card. Or rather, 12 greeting cards.

The cheesy, would-be heartwarming drama makes much of the 12 "gifts" that the late Texas oil baron Red Stevens (James Garner, in a 45-second prologue) has left to his grandson Jason (Logan Bartholomew), who runs the billion-dollar foundation that his grandfather set up before his death. As we learn, they're lessons on the order of "Every day is a gift" and "Gratitude is a gift."

I'm sorry. If those are spoilers, you need to get out more.

Directed by Michael Landon Jr., who has made a career out of producing and directing clean, inspirational movies for the faith community, "The Ultimate Life" sets out to show us, in flashback, just how Red (played by Austin James as a teenager, and later by Drew Waters) came to these epiphanies. Apparently, it's by making boatloads of money.

That's pretty much all Red cares about, from his first job as a ranch hand after running away from home in the 1940s, to his ownership of a giant company in the late 1960s. Little happens along the way to make him stop and reflect about life's deeper meaning, until an episode late in the film, which feels so forced, heavy-handed and cloying that it leaves an aftertaste of plastic tubing and high fructose corn syrup in the mouth. The acting is wooden, if earnest. And the script (by Brian Bird and Lisa G. Shillingburg, based on a novel by Jim Stovall) is painfully formulaic.

As for the film's production values, it looks and sounds slightly less professional than a made-for-TV movie, with costumes, hairstyles and set dressing that look thrown together on the cheap. One scene, meant to be taking place in 1941, shows a rancher (Peter Fonda) peeling money from a wad of $20 bills that are clearly of contemporary design, not introduced until 2003.

But such sloppy attention to period detail is the least of the film's worries. Such gaffes will likely not be noticed by viewers, most of whom will have fallen asleep by that point.

Advertisement