Thursday, March 08, 2007

Inherited traits

Wild Hogs, from Disney, tops the box office this week. While it's not necessarily marketed as a family comedy, I'm sure that many kids have attended, only to witness the sight of William H. Macy's, uh, hindsight. What's an unsuspecting parent to do?

Many parents have opted to avoid live action fare at the cineplex altogether, which is a reasonable, cost-saving decision. But it's nice to know that there are production companies and distributors that are in business to deliver movies that are family-safe but not anesthetized. I've mentioned Walden Media before; now it looks as though Fox Faith is doing the same.

The Ultimate Gift, which opens on about 800 screens this weekend, has more mass appeal than the last Fox Faith movie I reviewed, Thr3e. But both are equally vague in their approach to religion.

Drew Fuller (best known as Big Gay Chris on TV's Charmed) plays Jason Stevens, a spoiled and rebellious trust fund kid who might acquire an inheritance of uncertain amount from his deceased grandfather (James Garner, shown in a videotaped will). He must first pass a series of character-building tests overseen by the will's executor (Bill Cobbs). Over the next several months he learns the value of hard work, friendship, and family, and you quickly suspect that the "ultimate gift" may not have anything to do with money.

The film also co-stars Abigail Breslin as the aforementioned friend, and it's interesting how Fox Faith touts her Oscar nom (for Little Miss Sunshine) as a selling point in the trailer. Can't blame them, though; she probably earned the film a few hundred more screens.

It's easy to dismiss the movie as Hallmark Channel material, but there's no law that confines earnest filmmaking to television. I also liked how it was set in Charlotte. At last, a film that doesn't try to disguise the fact that it was shot in North Carolina.

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