Movie novelization strips down important lessons

By  Jenna Murphy, Youth Speak News
  • September 6, 2007
{mosimage}The Ultimate Gift  by Rene Gutteridge (Thomas Nelson Press, paperback, 170 pages,  $14.99 U.S.).  

The Ultimate Gift has been adpated from its original form, a novel by Jim Stovall, into both a movie by FoxFaith and a novelization of the movie by Rene Gutteridge.
In the attempt to make a story more accessible through re-writing, losses and gains are expected. In the case of Gutteridge’s novelization of the movie, there are many stripped-down lessons to be learned in so few pages.

Jason Stevens is left heir to a much different fortune than he anticipated after the death of his billionaire grandfather, Howard “Red” Stevens. Through a series of tests of character and forced life lessons, Red succeeds (even after his death) in creating conditions for his grandson’s inheritance.

The life lessons covered in the novel are true to their name — lessons that take a lifetime to learn. Per usual, some things are easier said than done, as the cliché goes. In this whirlwind of what is presented to be a few weeks, Jason is prompted to understand the value of 12 specific gifts with the guidance of Mr. Hamilton, his grandfather’s trusted friend and right-hand man. These gifts include (as listed in the back of the novel): the gift of work, money (as force of good or evil), friends, learning, problems (practising good judgment), family, laughter, dreams, giving, gratitude, time and love.

Though the message is obviously commendable and is sure to spark inspiration in its younger readers in particular, the changes in setting are a lot to digest as Jason flies from North Carolina to Texas to Ecuador to learn all that his late grandfather has mapped out for his curriculum.

{amazon id='0937539481' align='right'} “‘Do you know how to learn?’ said Red. ‘Jason, any process worth going through will get tougher before it gets easier. That’s what makes learning a gift. Even if pain is your teacher.’ ”

The novel is peppered with similar little bits of Red’s wisdom in the messages he leaves to mark Jason’s journey. Being the ideal student he is, Jason’s epiphanies follow soon after Red’s lessons. Whether it be Jason returning to his previously posh apartment only to find it emptied of everything, or after narrowly escaping death in the jungle after being captured and imprisoned by Ecuadorian rebels, Jason learns everything that is expected of him. It is in the midst of all of these lessons that Jason meets a young cancer patient named Emily and experiences his most powerful lesson: how to live through faith in Jesus.

Virtually no valuable lesson is left untouched by the end of Jason’s travels. Though it is decidedly a light read, The Ultimate Gift is still successful in provoking a thorough inventory of one’s own priorities and goals in life. The reader is inevitably taught, along with Jason, that in order to learn anything we must maintain an open heart because you never know where or from whom you will receive your next gift.

(Murphy is a member of the  Queenship of Mary in Ottawa.)

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