Film Review: ‘The Ultimate Life’

The Ultimate Life Review

A terminally dull piece of faith-based family-values filmmaking designed to appeal strictly to the converted.

Both a prequel and a sequel to 2007’s inspirational theatrical bomb (but DVD hit) “The Ultimate Gift,” “The Ultimate Life” once again soft-pedals gentle messages of Christian charity and family values destined to appeal strictly to the converted. Frequent faith-based filmmaker Michael Landon Jr. displays great determination, and even more folly, in his attempt to mount a “Giant”-sized family saga with the production values of “Sharknado.” Terminally dull result faces grim theatrical prospects on its way to endless Hallmark Channel reruns, where it will challenge even the most forgiving viewers to stay awake and alert throughout.

Picking up three years after the events of “Gift,” busy young mogul Jason Stevens (Logan Bartholomew, taking over for Drew Fuller) has hit a rough patch with g.f. Alexia (Ali Hillis), and only a thorough reading of the journals of his deceased billionaire grandfather, Red (James Garner, onscreen for less than a minute), can set him straight. Thus the bulk of the film unfolds in flashbacks charting how Red (primarily played by Drew Waters) went from rags to riches, and takes an awfully long time to deliver an awfully trite message: Money only matters if you have someone special to share it with.

Largely dismal thesping briefly perks up during an early stretch carried by appealing young performers Austin James as teenage Red and Abigail Mavity as his feisty love interest, Hanna. Unfortunately, after a strange detour into WWII (and a single battle scene that manages less verisimilitude than anything Max Fischer staged in “Rushmore”), the teens grow up and the focus falls solely on adult Red’s obsessive quest to find his fortune in oil. He’s like Daniel Plainview, only whinier and less homicidal. Meanwhile, Hanna (now played by Elizabeth Ann Bennett) inexplicably loses her spark and fades into the background to care for the couple’s four interchangeable children as any dutiful wife (apparently) should.

Beyond the dispiriting gender politics, the pic’s social agenda emerges as hopelessly muddled. Struggling to make ends meet during the Depression, Red learns a valuable Ayn Randian lesson from a wealthy land owner (Peter Fonda, onscreen for about three minutes): Most people are sheep, while successful men are bellwethers. It’s only once the unapologetically greedy Red has selfishly amassed his own wealth (by stepping on or exploiting an untold number of “sheep” in the process), that he realizes he’s lost his soul. So he promptly buys it back by creating a “foundation” for generically altruistic purposes.

At least the narrative sloppiness and ineptly delivered themes in the script by Brian Bird and Lisa G. Shillingburg (freely adapted from the novel by Jim Stovall) feel of a piece with the entire production.

Film Review: 'The Ultimate Life'

Reviewed online, West Hollywood, Sept. 5, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 108 MIN.

Production

A High Top Releasing release of a Rick Eldridge production in association with ReelWorks Studios. Produced by Eldridge, David Kappes. Executive producer, Eldridge. Co-executive producer, Chris Cates, John E. Allen Jr.

Crew

Directed by Michael Landon Jr. Screenplay, Brian Bird, Lisa G. Shillingburg. Camera (color, HD), Christo Bakalov; editor, Bridget Durnford; music, Mark McKenzie; music supervisor, Robin Urdang; production designer, Jeremy Woodward; art director, Kristina Stevenson; set decorator, Karestin Harrison; costume designer, Natasha Landau; sound, Jarrett DePasquale; supervising sound editor, Will Howard; re-recording mixers, Marti D. Humphrey, Chris M. Jacobson; visual effects supervisor, Chris Cates, Jamie Beyers; visual effects, Digital Hyper Studios, ReelWorks Studios; stunt coordinator, Peter King; assistant director, Danielle Rigby; casting, Mitzi Corrigan, Penny Perry.

With

Drew Waters, Austin James, Logan Bartholomew, Abigail Mavity, Ali Hillis, Jack DePew, Bechir Sylvain, Elizabeth Ann Bennett, Bill Cobbs, Peter Fonda, Brett Rice, Lee Meriwether, David Mann, James Garner.

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  1. Sharon G says:

    Love love these movies I hope there are more to come!!

  2. Christian Toma says:

    good, so good!

  3. Jack Mehoff says:

    Geoff,
    Clearly, you are a very arrogant and unhappy little man. You are very narrow minded and bigoted towards things which are GOOD! It’s obvious that you have no family of your own. You are extremely Anti Christian and Anti Family. You are angry that the lead character, Jason, changes his ways from becoming a selfish, spoiled rotten, arrogant, disrespectful, greedy, entitled, useless Piece of crap, to becoming the opposite of how he was, since you can totally relate to how Jason WAS.
    My family and I LOVED ‘The Ultimate Gift’. Who cares what you think?

  4. Josh Eldredge says:

    It’s so sad to see this movie critic trash this movie simply because it has the audacity to promote family values.

    Geoff,

    Just because sex, violence, and vulgar language sells more box office tickets, its doesn’t change the fact that the unit of the family (and their passe family values) are the foundation of any successful civilization. Once those “family values” diminish, the result will be a world that looks like the filth that is in most mainstream movies, and you or your posterity will be begging for a return of those obnoxious family values. BTW, I am not an elderly person that’s looking back and wandering were the world of my youth went. I am a 33 year old attorney with three little girls that is doing everything I can to reject the onslaught of people calling good evil and evil good. I do this so that my little girls can raise families of their own without being ridiculed for promoting family values by people like yourself.

  5. Rita says:

    Geoff,

    I’m so glad that you don’t review all the movies. I’ve seen both the Ultimate Gift and the Ultimate Life and LOVED both of them. I only wish that Michael Landon Jr. would make more family value movies so that all Christians can take their whole family to see movies without sex scenes and filthy language in them, which I for one will not spend my hard earned money to go see!

  6. Sue says:

    Loved The Ultimate Gift and can’t wait to see The Ultimate Life. We need more movies that are not based on glorifying violence and the many ways to hurt people, while they belittle and mock we who love Jesus.

  7. Sean says:

    I couldn’t tell by the review which was more politically minded, the movie or the reviewer. ” gentle messages of Christian charity and family values destined to appeal strictly to the converted.” So the “strictly converted” are those who believe in charity and family values. Well, hopefully that represents the majority of the U.S. populous. What a joke of a review.

  8. Karen says:

    Wow! Finally a film catering to my desire to be edified and uplifted rather than cursed at or made to feel guilty because I eat meat and shop at big box stores…
    What is the world coming to? What’s next, Americans who don’t want war…? What, what?

  9. gidget moore says:

    Can not wait to see it

  10. Nicole Lynn Patti says:

    define bellwether to understand Red’s character: A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.

    The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading his flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight. In politics, the term is more often applied in the passive sense to describe a geographic region where political tendencies match in microcosm those of a wider area, such that the result of an election in the former region might predict the eventual result in the latter. In a Westminster-style election, for example, a constituency, the control of which tends frequently to change, can mirror in its popular vote the result on a national sca

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