REVIEW: 'The Ultimate Life': Lesson learned — get filthy rich
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 forced, heavy-handed and cloying. 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.
Michael O'Sullivan writes for the Washington Post.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Let It Snow’ filming in Millvale
- Pittsburgh-set ‘Me and Earl’ big at Sundance, gets distribution deal
- Film review: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ draws heartfelt laughs, tears
- ‘Birdman’ gets Oscar boost with 2 weekend wins
- Romero’s son plans ‘Living Dead’ origins story
- DVD reviews: ‘The Boxtrolls,’ ‘The Drop’ and ‘Lucy’