Home > Reviews > THE ULTIMATE GIFT – Mark McKenzie

THE ULTIMATE GIFT – Mark McKenzie

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Based on the best-selling book by Jim Stovall, The Ultimate Gift is the story of man being forced to find out what life if all about. When his impossibly rich grandfather Red Stevens (James Garner) dies, selfish layabout Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) thinks he’s in for the financial windfall of his life; however, Red ha other ideas. Before he can receive his inheritance, Jason must successfully complete twelve tasks – “gifts” – which Red devised in order for his ungrateful, distant grandson to experience the reality of life, each challenging Jason in an improbable way.

Directed by Michael O. Saibel and with a quirky but impressive supporting cast that includes Abigail Breslin, Brian Dennehy and Lee Meriweather, The Ultimate Gift is one of those film music rarities: a feature film score from the massively talented Mark McKenzie. After a misleadingly dark opening, McKenzie’s main theme kicks in, yet another one of those gloriously rich orchestral melodies which seem to his flow from his pen like water from a spring.

If any one man can claim to be this generation’s Georges Delerue, it’s McKenzie; the sensitive string and piano writing which anchors the score is excellent. By the time the theme receives an emotional recapitulation in “Plane Wreckage”, it has become the cornerstone of the score. By the time it gets to “Redemption”, it is literally yanking at your heartstrings. Unexpectedly, McKenzie engages in some fun, energetic country-bluegrass music in “City Boy in Texas”, vibrant collisions of harmonicas, fiddles and percussion, and gives a lively pop-culture edge to “Bum’s Bench” and “Park Picnic”.

Elsewhere, he sets a South American mood with pan pipes and florid guitars in “Arrival in Ecuador” and “Childhood Letter”, and even writes some powerful action music for “The Firing Squad”. This is a quite lovely score from a man who writes lovely scores with consummate ease, and is recommended for anyone who knows, and likes, his style.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • The Ultimate Gift Main Title (3:03)
  • City Boy in Texas (1:23)
  • Bum’s Bench (0:47)
  • Emily’s Chemo (1:24)
  • I’ve Seen What Money Can Do (1:03)
  • Those Arms Are For You (1:20)
  • Park Picnic (0:44)
  • Arrival in Ecuador (1:00)
  • Childhood Letter (1:16)
  • Family Thanksgiving (3:27)
  • Plane Wreckage (3:06)
  • Captivity (2:56)
  • The Firing Squad (3:12)
  • One Shouldn’t Lose A Son (0:51)
  • What’s Your Dream? (2:37)
  • Emily’s Legacy (2:37)
  • Redemption (1:30)
  • Red’s Goodbye (1:36)
  • Texas Christmas/A Perfect Day (2:08)
  • Two Billion (1:43)
  • Something Changed (performed by Sara Groves) (3:46)
  • Legacy (performed by Ed Goggin) (3:03)

Running Time: 44 minutes 32 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6809 (2007)

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