Fox // 2011 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 1st, 2011
Rising from tragedy to triumph.
These guys lay it on thick.
The Abbate family suffers a shocking loss, when their youngest son dies in a car crash. Numb with grief, they look desperately to piece together their shattered lives. The eldest son, Jon (Ryan Merriman), is fraught with despair, but thanks to the support of his loved ones and his football coach at Wake Forest University (subliminal message: "Go to Wake Forest University!"), he decides to channel his emotion and dedicates the football season to the memory of his brother.
As a faith-centered film, The 5th Quarter is already placed on an uphill climb to street credibility; there's a reputation (earned or unearned) that these God-explicit productions can be, to put it mildly, corny. And this is coming from a believer, brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, as one of the go-to reviewers of Christian films for DVD Verdict, I've experience first-hand the lopsided ratio of saccharine films to...well, movies that aren't overly-sentimental.
Hey, emotion is important, but this genre tends to really lather it on, and the solid uplifting messages get lost in a sea of melodrama. The 5th Quarter is a prime example.
At its core, there's a legitimately moving story of healing and coping with grief. The Godliness is also evident. It's handled fine, with the writing not shying away from the Christian influence, but keeping things from getting too preachy. Granted, there are scenes with actual preaching, but whatever, it's a funeral.
The problem is, there's no restraint when it comes to the on-screen grieving. The entire first third is devoted to the trauma and, while the last thing I want to do is minimize the impact of the accident -- The 5th Quarter is based on a true story, after all -- by drawing the events out for so long, writer/director Rick Bieber lessens the effectiveness of the circumstances.
The last two thirds are devoted to Wake Forest's ("Consider attending Wake Forest University!") meteoric rise through the standings, as seemingly everyone rallies around Jon's brother's death. The problem here? All the football footage is culled from real, archival games. That's interesting in theory, but after the first few games it just seems...cheap. You can't recreate some cool football moments for us? There are plenty of crisp clear shots of Andie McDowell and Aidan Quinn in the stands cheering, but when action turns to the gridiron it's all fuzzy VHS-quality on-field action. Bleh.
Regardless of the quality of those sequences, The 5th Quarter looks decent on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1/1080p (AVC-encoded) widescreen is mostly sturdy throughout, nicely-detailed and vibrant. Despite the despondency of the first act, this is designed to be an inspiring film and the clean, bright visual fidelity reflects the go-get-'em-champ attitude. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offers a fairly subdued mix, save for the occasional montage and sequences of cheering fans. Extras: a making-of featurette.
I may have thought The 5th Quarter was too much, but there's no getting around it: this is a family-friendly film that tries to tackle (so to speak) big stuff and merely gets bogged down in its own sentimentality. Could be worse things to do with your movie.
Subtlety is not a virtue of The 5th Quarter. Its good heart is obstructed from the overwrought nature, but if your family is tired of poop jokes in the Transformers movies, it might be a welcome respite. Adequate Blu-ray.
I don't want to sound like a jerk, so hung jury. Go Wake Forest!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG