'Ultimate Gift' Producer Stunned by Bashing of 'Hidden Religious Content'

Fox Faith's most recent film release was greeted by a barrage of abrasive reviews over the past week, which the film's producer has found both surprising and wrong.

The new family-friendly movie distributor of Twentieth Century Fox last weekend released The Ultimate Gift, starring Academy award nominee James Garner (The Notebook) and rising newcomer child actress Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine).

In a recent statement, movie producer Rick Eldridge expressed his surprise when critics began to attack the movie for "hidden religious and social messages" that he had not intended for the film.

"Reeking of self-righteousness and moral reprimand, Michael O. Sajbel's 'Ultimate Gift' is a hairball of good-for-you filmmaking," read one review by Jeanette Catsoulis, writer for the New York Times. "The movie's messages - pro-poverty, anti-abortion - are methodically hammered home."

Lou Carlozo, critic for the Chicago Tribune, wrote, "There's an anti-abortion message jammed into one scene with all the subtlety of an avalanche. Just in case you miss it, it's repeated in the credits too. Some gift, eh?"

Eldridge has denied these allegations of "hidden" content, and noted that he was simply trying to make a movie that families could enjoy together without violence, cursing, or sex.

"The film's single mom says she was glad she had her child. Calling that an anti-abortion message is a stretch," said Eldridge in his released statement. "And while the film certainly does inspire people to be giving and compassionate, what does that have to do with being 'pro-poverty?' It's hard to know how to respond to that kind of criticism, except to say that it clearly incites the wrong things."

According to exit polls from CinemaScore, 99 percent of respondents that watched the film gave it a rating of either an A or B. Eldridge has used this fact to point out that critics are simply out to tag values-driven movies with unfair labels.

"The Ultimate Gift is a people's film, not a critic's film," added Eldridge in a statement. "And there is, increasingly, a big difference between those two things."

The movie follows the adventures of a trust fund baby whose grandfather recently passed away. When going to receive his inheritance, the main character discovers that he must first go through a series of "gifts" before he can receive his money. Only after going through each "gift," would he finally be able to reveal the "ultimate gift."

Since its release on Mar. 9, the movie has been doing fairly well for a limited theatrical release. The film is being shown in more than 128 cities around the United States and Canada in more than 500 theaters.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film was ranked No. 15 in this week's Wednesday box office results and raked in $113,000. Eldridge had expected it to do well noting the success of the book it was modeled after, also named The Ultimate Gift, which had sold three million copies worldwide and the cast he had hired, which also included six-time Emmy nominee Brian Dennehy.