Fox // 2011 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // August 28th, 2011
From the ashes of great tragedy can come great achievement.
While I'll admit that I wasn't really looking forward to The 5th Quarter ("Another inspirational sports movie? Great," I mumbled upon receiving this screener disc), I honestly didn't expect such an exasperatingly inept piece of filmmaking. The film's first thirty minutes represent some of the hammiest, most overwrought drama I've seen recently, and things just get worse from there.
When teenage football player Luke Abbate (Stefan Guy) is killed in a car accident, his parents Steven (Aidan Quinn, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) and Maryanne (Andie MacDowell, Four Weddings and a Funeral) quickly become overwhelmed by grief and begin to grow apart from one another. Likewise, Luke's brother Jon (Ryan Merriman, Final Destination 3) descends into alcoholism and is on the verge of allowing his sadness to crush his budding football career. However, Jon and his parents slowly but surely begin to heal, and Jon eventually leads the other members of the Wake Forest football team to one of the best seasons in the school's history.
At least, I'm pretty sure that's what happened. The 5th Quarter is such a melancholic mess that it frequently fails at fundamental tasks like taking the viewer from point A to point B. At least it manages to tell a coherent story at a sensible pace during the aforementioned opening half-hour, even if that material is loaded with overcooked performances and some very unpersuasive dialogue. During this portion of the film, there are scenes that feel more like public service announcements than recreations of real events; we're half-expecting Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor to march onto the screen to declare, "And that's why you don't engage in reckless driving."
Once the funeral has concluded, The 5th Quarter transforms into the world's messiest inspirational music video. We witness montage after montage of Jon's football team improving and winning their early games, fans cheering in the stands, people raising up five fingers during the final quarter (which Wake Forest fans have re-dubbed "The 5th Quarter" as some sort of tribute to Luke, it seems) and so on. However, it's a lot of sound and fury signifying that the filmmakers don't know how to stage a cinematic football game. The depiction of the games themselves is remarkably sloppy and amateurish; a major liability considering that such scenes frequently carry otherwise lackluster inspirational sports movies.
Even worse, The 5th Quarter is the sort of film in which important developments happen off-screen while insignificant filler is given ample screen time. We're told about the strained marriage between the Quinn and MacDowell characters, but we don't actually get to witness much of that for ourselves. We're told that Jon is the leader of the team, but we don't see him doing much actual leading. We're told that the entire Wake Forest fan base has rallied behind the suffering Abbate family, but the film never bothers to address the manner in which this groundswell of support appeared in the first place. It's just one scene after another of sloppy football montages, scenes of characters crying and hugging, uplifting Christian pop songs, mournful looks and oh-so-awkward dialogue exchanges (seriously, none of these people talk like real human beings, particularly the teens/college students).
The film also awkwardly shoehorns in a plot about organ donation, in which we spend a bit of time with a young woman who was given Luke's heart. This material feels forced (and once again approaches PSA territory), but some end credits text reveals all: the Abbate family started a foundation devoted to 1) raising awareness about reckless driving and 2) encouraging organ donation. So, we understand why the film has so awkwardly gone out of its way to emphasize these subjects, but that doesn't change the fact that they feel like frustratingly inorganic parts of this mawkish drama.
I was sent a screener disc, and as such cannot comment on the official video or audio quality of this release. The only extra included is an EPK-style making-of featurette entitled "The Making of The 5th Quarter."
Even those who love family-friendly, uplifting sports movies geared towards Christian viewers should think twice before checking out The 5th Quarter. Even the heavy-handed films of Alex Kendrick manage to be more basically satisfying than this disaster.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG