Courtesy: Cinedigm/ReelWorks Studios
Evangelical movie studio ReelWorks Studios will release the latest installment in its ongoing “Ultimate” franchise on Tuesday when it releases The Ultimate Legacy. The franchise’s third installment, it is enjoyable, but hardly perfect. That is not to say that it is a total loss, but this critic would be lying to say that it is one of the year’s best new cinematic offerings independent or otherwise. One of the key elements that keeps this latest installment in the “Ultimate” franchise afloat is the work of the movie’s cast. This will be discussed shortly. While the cast’s work is laudable, its story is sadly not so laudable. That is hugely important to note, and will be discussed later. Of course whereas the movie takes a big hit due to its story, the movie’s cinematography makes up for that hit if only slightly. When the cinematography is coupled with the cast’s work on camera, they luckily do just enough to make up for the movie’s story, which is anything but original. Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, The Ultimate Gift proves to be anything but the ultimate cinematic triumph.
ReelWorks’ latest installment in its “Ultimate” movie franchise is enjoyable, but is hardly an ultimate cinematic offering. Luckily for its parent studio though, it is not a total loss. It does have some saving graces, one of which is its cinematography. The movie, shot at least partially in La Grange, Kentucky, will impress audiences if only for the work of its cast. Viewers will be surprised to learn that the supporting cast is more deserving of credit than the lead cast in this movie. The most notable of the support cast are Torry Martin and Doug Jones. The pair plays two of Anderson House’s staff, and while they are not on camera at all times, their time on camera is successful.
Audiences will love watching Martin (The Matchbreaker, The Errs of Birdie Hollow, Adrift) as the innocent, nerdy housekeeper Oscar. Martin makes Oscar such a loveable character through his portrayal. His comic timing is spot on as he stumbles over what to call Joey, and as he runs to save the day after Joey accidentally hits a water line while developing the memorial garden. Even in a more serious moment such as when Oscar and Hawthorne (Jones) reveal a long-held secret to Joey, Martin impresses. As enjoyable as he is to watch, one can only hope that he will get more opportunities to shine in bigger movies and sooner rather than later at that.
Jones’ (Star Trek Discovery, Hellboy, Hellboy II) portrayal as Hawthorne is just as enjoyable Martin’s take on Oscar. Just like with Martin, Jones’ time on screen is limited. But he shines just as much. Those who are familiar with Disney Junior’s animated series Sofia The First will be able to instantly compare Jones’ portrayal to Tim Gunn’s portrayal of Sofia’s butler Baileywick. The difference is that Hawthorne barely has any speaking lines in this movie. Even with that being the case, Jones still impresses when he does speak. He impresses just as much when his acting is done more through emoting than speaking. Jones gets even those moments right, and whether those moments come when he’s alone or he is alongside Martin, he shows exactly why he is deserving of credit. When Jones and Martin work alongside, the pair shows fully that they are the real stars of this movie and collectively one of the only shining stars in this otherwise forgettable evangelical flick.
While Jones’ and Martin’s work is a laudable piece of The Ultimate Legacy’s overall presentation, the movie is anything but perfect. The movie’s story weighs it down and while it has some funny moments, it is otherwise unoriginal and forgettable. The movie’s story is a blatant rehashing of the “Ultimate” franchise’s first two movies and just as much of a ripoff of Fireproof. That is right down to the book that holds Sally Mae’s original will and the 12 Gifts that Joey has to work on in order to earn his inheritance. Just as with the franchise’s first two films and with Fireproof, the story’s main character has to go through a certain process in order to obtain enlightenment (so to speak) and his ultimate reward. That process includes self sacrifice (again just like with the aforementioned movies) and tithing in a manner of speaking. What’s more, Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any major transformation in the story. The fact that he gave charity early on in the movie made him little more than the bad boy with a heart of gold. That in itself is hardly original in the bigger picture of the entertainment world. Considering the fact that he never really went through any major transformation, it almost completely negates any reason to watch the movie. Luckily, these issues with the movie’s story (it’s writing in the bigger picture) aren’t enough to make the movie completely unwatchable. Its cinematography does its share to make it worth at least one watch, just as with the work of the movie’s cast.
The story at the center of The Ultimate Legacy does more of a disservice to the movie than a service. Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any earthshaking transformation when one truly examines the story closely. The process that Joey has to go through is nothing new both to the movie’s franchise, and is also a reworking of the story presented in Fireproof. For all of the problems that the story poses, those problems are offset by the movie’s cinematography. Viewers will be especially impressed by the soaring aerial shots of Hamilton House’s vast property and the countryside shots as Joey helps an elderly woman on her way to his grandmother’s funeral.
The movie’s various interior shots offer audiences just as much to applaud as its exterior shots. One case comes as Sally’s lawyers watch Joey at work on the memorial garden from inside the mansion’s dining room. The wide shot of the room and the contrast of the grounds from the inside exquisitely captures the details not just of the room but of the setting in whole. The shots captured in the mansion’s library and barn are just as impressive in their own right, and are hardly the only footage worth noting. Between the various impressive interior shots and exterior shots presented throughout the movie’s 99-minute run time, its cinematography paints quite a laudable picture; a picture that makes the movie worth at least one watch if only for that one factor. That is made clearer when one takes into consideration the work of supporting cast members Doug Jones and Torry Martin. When their work is joined with the work of the movie’s camera crew, the end result is a movie that is worth at least one watch even though it is anything but ultimate.
The Ultimate Legacy is a work that is anything but ultimate. Its story does little more than rehash the story used in the franchise’s previous installments. It also uses a very similar story presented in Sherwood Films’ movie Fireproof. That in itself does more harm than good to the movie. Even as much damage as it does to the movie’s value, the work of the movie’s support cast and its camera crew does just enough to make it worth at least one watch. Considering all of this, The Ultimate Legacy does little for the legacy of ReelWorks’ “Ultimate” franchise. It still remains a movie that while anything but ultimate, is worth at least one watch. It will be available Tuesday in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from ReelWorks Studios is available online at http://www.reelworks.net.
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