Can The Chronic Critic be objective about a movie that takes place primarily at the great university where she spent some of the best years of her life? Of course not. So, if you want an unbiased review, look elsewhere.
The 5th Quarter is a sports movie in the way that The Blind Side is a sports movie. Which is to say, it's really not. (Are they ever?) The film uses the Cinderella story of the 2006 Demon Deacons's improbable season to tell the true story of a grieving young man who inspires his teammates to gridiron greatness.
Jon Abbate (Ryan Merriman) is a Wake Forest player on a team that's expected to finish last in the ACC. As usual. (This critic can't help but think back to the football games during her college career, where she and her BFFs would hide out in portajons when the cops came around during third quarter to kick tailgaters into the game. "We hate to break up the party, but somebody's gotta go support the team," they'd say. Those were halcyon days.)
Jon's younger brother, Luke, is critically injured in a car accident -- and the car he and his buds were riding in was driven by a showboating 16-year-old friend -- and is declared brain dead. His family makes the gut-wrenching decision to take him off life support and donate his organs.
Back at Wake, Jon begins skipping class, drinking too much and missing practice. In a misstep in the storytelling, there's one night where he has one too many beers followed by a quick chat with a coach who's been there (his first wife dies) and rapidly followed by a winning season. It's all wrapped up too quickly. (Hey, maybe objectivity is possible, after all.)
Here's some more objectivity: Andie MacDowell's acting is so bad, it's a distraction. MacDowell plays Maryanne Abbate, the grieving mom. She's always been an unforgivably awful actress, but she's generally not called upon to do much other than look gorgeous. Which she does very well. This time, she's called upon to produce real tears, and that proves to be a bridge too far.
Which is too bad, because Aidan Quinn (Steven Abbate) is stellar. But, he can't carry the entire movie. And, he's really the only professional in the bunch. The Girlfriend is so generic and wooden that she could be anybody. I can't even recall her name.
So, there are limitations. But, did they stop this critic from crying during the hospital scenes, the funeral, the aftermath and the uplifting, winning season? Of course not. If you thought Gale Sayers' locker room "I love Brian Piccolo" speech from Brian's Song could turn on the faucet, wait'll you see this.
The movie makes the point that Luke Abbate lives on through the people who received his vital organs. But, he also lives on as the inspiration for Wake Forest's winningest season in their history. Jon Abbate switches his jersey number from 40 to 5 -- Luke's lacrosse number -- and begins to hold up five fingers to his parents in the stands at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Soon enough, his teammates join in. And, then the Deacon fans follow suit. And, then the opposing team and their fans do, too. It's great drama and makes for great cinema.
When a movie has this much heart, you can forgive bad acting and erratic pacing. Bring plenty of Kleenex, and ... see it.