In the opening minutes of The Ultimate Legacy at the 25th Heartland Film Festival, I realized that the basic premise of the movie matched that of an early Hoosier novel, The House of a Thousand Candles.
In both cases—the movie and the early Hoosier book—the main character is a globetrotting male relative who an older relative hopes to reign in through stipulations about inheriting their estate. The main characters must live for a year in the house of their late relative and fulfill stipulations in the will in order to inherit anything. Over the course of the year, both grow into the men that their deceased relatives hoped they would be.
To my surprise, I learned at the showing of The Ultimate Legacy that the movie was the last in a trilogy, preceded by The Ultimate Life and The Ultimate Gift. These Hallmark channel movies are based on the novel The Gift of a Legacy by Jim Stovall.
In The Ultimate Legacy, Joey’s grandmother (Raquel Welch) passes away and leaves behind stipulations that Joey must meet to gain his inheritance. Joey is anything but willing to engage in any of this, except upon the death of his grandmother, his trust reverted back to her estate. Suddenly he found himself with no money, no credit cards, no cell phone. He was bereft but indignant. A year occupying Anderson House and then he could walk away with his trust (but not the full inheritance)? Yes, he’d do it.
His grandmother’s lawyers and a man who runs foundations were responsible for ensuring that Joey met the stipulations outlined in the will. Not only did he have to live for a year in the Anderson House but he also had to pass through a series of steps or gifts, things like the gift of work, money, love. Joey quickly recognized these as the steps in the Boy Scouts.
Reluctant and prickly, he did end up applying himself to each step. His skills and abilities quickly impressed those around him. For example, rather than blindly building the memorial garden around his grandmother’s grave, he pointed out the problems with the plans and built an even better garden than detailed in the original plans. When confronted with wounded veterans, he used experience with rock climbing to evaluate a recovering veteran’s hand and arm strength.
The steps forced him to confront his past and issues that led to him run from it and the Anderson House. Running hadn’t healed him. Grandma’s steps led him on the road to healing and living a life more than just for himself. Unsurprisingly, Joey ended up embracing his grandma’s legacy and continuing her work with the Anderson House.
As is the case with some of the films shown at the Heartland Film Festival, two of the actors in the movie were in the audience: Brian Dennehy and Kim Baptiste. Brian quickly made the audience laugh during the Q&A. To one person stating that he looked great, he quipped, “Compared to what?” He joked around being in the fetal position with back and knee problems from playing football in his early years.
To my query about their favorite scene, Kim mentioned the last scene she was in—all sitting around the couch watching a video of Grammie G. She said it was just amazing to be sitting next to Brian Dennehy.
Brian, in seemingly politician style, didn’t directly answer my question but the question he wanted to answer. He was glad to have been a part of such an uplifting film that had a positive impact on other people.
As an aside, Brian received a lifetime achievement award at the 25th Heartland Film Festival.