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The Ultimate Gift

Romance / Christian
2006 / 114 minutes
RATING: 7/10

Jason, a spoilt rich kid, is given an inheritance by his billionaire grandfather… but it comes with conditions. To get the money Jason has to complete 12 separate tasks, all of which are intended to humble and shape him. His grandfather, Red, has seen how money has ruined his own children, but he hopes he can still influence and change Jason.

Each of the 12 tasks Red assigns involves a “gift,” and while I don’t want to give too much away, I’ll note one: the gift of friendship. Jason has until the end of the month to come up with one true friend. That’s a tough assignment for someone whose “friends” have always expected him to pick up the check. When Red also arranges for Jason’s credit to get cut, his entourage cuts out. Even his mom won’t help. Forced to sleep on a park bench, he meets a single mom, Alexia, and her daughter, Emily. While they’re willing to befriend him, Jason still has some growing to do – he sees them as a way to finish a task, and not as the better sort of friends that they really are.

But Red knew what he was doing when he came up with all these gifts, so its onward and forward to the next one.

Caution

[Spoiler Alert] The big caution here is unavoidably a spoiler. If you’re watching this with your better half, you can just ignore this caution so you don’t read the spoiler. But if you are watching with littles, then you’ll want to know ahead of time that the girl, Emily, has leukemia, and before the film ends, she does die. That will have anyone under ten bawling, and probably quite a few over ten too.

Conclusion

This was based on a Christian novel of the same name, and there is an underpinning of Christianity most of the way through. It is quite the fun film, with each new task a different sort of adventure. It’s also hard not to love the curmudgeonly grandfather Red, handing out tough love from beyond the grave in the hopes he can still teach and help his aimless grandson.

A sequel, The Ultimate Life, is only middling, and marred by a misuse of God’s name.

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WHO IS THIS FOR?

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WHEN AND WHERE?

Edmonton: April 19 at 7:30 pm at Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church

Barhead: April 20 at 7:30 pm at Emmanuel United Reformed Church

Ponoka: April 22 at 7:30 pm at Parkland Reformed Church

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Family, Movie Reviews

Good Sam

Drama / Family / Romance 2019 / 89 minutes RATING: 8/10 Kate Bradley is a TV news reporter following the "bummer beat" in New York City, covering fires and other tragedies. That's left her a little cynical, and her boss is worried that it's also left her more than a little jaded about the dangers she risks to get her stories. So when a story breaks about an anonymous good samaritan leaving a bag of $100,000 outside a financial-strapped older lady's door, Kate's boss decides to give her this safer assignment. Kate isn't happy about her new beat, and presumes there has to be some sort of angle behind the good deed. As she tells her cameraman, "It's hard to believe that there's somebody out there doing good deeds and expecting nothing in return." But when the money keeps coming the mystery only deepens; "Good Sam" leaves a second bag of cash with a doctor who isn't in any sort of need. The third recipient, a carpenter who'd been laid up with an injury, has no connection to the first two. And the news just keeps getting better when folks who've heard about Good Sam start acting like him, and starting their own Good Samaritan clubs, to do anonymous good deeds in their neighborhoods. Good Sam would have been too sugary-sweet if it'd keep on this track, but we find out that Kate's cynicism isn't baseless: a tech programmer claims to be Good Sam, but Kate quickly exposes him as a fake. And that's not the only dirt that Kate uncovers. I appreciated a romance angle that was less predictable than most. Kate gets two love interests, both pretty stalwart sorts... or so it seems. Kate's father is a US senator, and when she meets charming hedge fund manager Jack Hansen she initially turns him down, as she has a rule against dating anyone in her father's political circles. Eric Hayes is a firefighter Kate keeps bumping into in her day job. He is as brave as he is private... or might the right word be secretive? Which of these two will she end up with? That's another mystery, and viewers are left in suspense for most of the movie. Cautions No language or violence concerns to share. There is some kissing, right at the end, but exchanged in a public park. The more notable caution is for what the movie doesn't have – this is a part of Netflix's "Faith and Spirituality" category, but it isn't either. While the original Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37) teaches us what it means to live out the Second Greatest Commandment, this one avoids any mention of God. Conclusion The moral of the story trends in a humanist direction – people aren't as bad as we think as they will sometimes do things for completely unselfish reasons. However, the Calvinist in me can recast this in a more orthodox direction, seeing it as an illustrated of how the world is broken but not utterly depraved, and the cyclical Kate has no right to be so in the face of the many undeserved blessings she (and we) receive daily. While this is just a Hallmark-ish kind of romance, I'd give it two thumbs up for being way better than the average sort. The acting is solid throughout, the mystery and romance will keep most viewers guessing for the first three quarters of the film, and the lack of problematic content make this one you can watch with almost the whole family (though I don't know if it'll grab the under 8s). That makes Good Sam a pretty rare treat. ...