Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

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The 5th Quarter Fumbles Attempt to Inspire

<i>The 5th Quarter</i> Fumbles Attempt to Inspire

DVD Release Date:  August 30, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: March 25, 2011 (limited); April 8, 2011 (wider)
Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements)
Genre: Drama, Sports
Run Time:  97 min.
Director: Rick Bieber                           
Actors: Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn, and Andie MacDowell

In 2006, young Luke Abbate caught a ride home from school with a carload of other guys. That proved a fatal decision. Luke died from injuries sustained in a devastating accident two days later, just four days before his sixteenth birthday. The Abbates decided to donate Luke’s organs, impacting five other lives. Luke’s older brother, Jon, struggled with grief before returning to his Wake Forest football team. With his brother as inspiration (“playing for two”), Jon changes his number to Luke’s favorite (five) and leads the Demon Deacons to their most successful season ever.

At least, that’s what the producers say the film is about. Unfortunately, The 5th Quarter is so confusing it’s hard to tell. That’s a shame; based on the real Abbate family’s experience, this could have been a touching tribute to the power of inspiration. Instead, it’s like one of those “issue of the week” made-for-TV movies—only it can’t decide what issue to highlight. The dangers of reckless teen driving? The benefits of organ donation? Coping with grief? Who can tell? The 5th Quarter is so incoherent it doesn’t seem to make any point at all.

The storyline has holes big enough to drive an entire offensive line through. For example, Luke’s parents (Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell) seem to grow dangerously apart in their grief, but later, poof! There they are, happy campers both, in the stands at Jon’s football games. Then there are random scenes talking about how inspirational Jon is, but we never actually see him doing anything particularly inspirational. We do see him drink a lot of beer, but that’s not exactly heartwarming. In fact, several Abbates turn to alcohol for comfort. They occasionally pray and read a Bible, too, but neither seems to have much effect.

Meanwhile, multiple characters are introduced and dropped without explanation. We never find out what happened to the rest of the kids involved in the accident. There’s a mystery female who eventually turns out to be Jon’s and Luke’s special needs sister. They have a brother, too, who has law school issues—but that’s all we know about him, because he’s just one more plot line left hanging. Jon’s (apparently live-in) girlfriend is more of a prop than a character; she’s such a non-issue we didn’t even learn her name until the credits rolled.

Sticking random scenes together does not a story make. I lost count of the times my fellow viewers asked, “What was the point of that?” Too often, there didn’t seem to be an answer. The audio mix doesn’t do the film any favors, either. The dialogue had a tendency to fade away into an inaudible murmur and the film’s score was often intrusive and distracting.

“Stay focused” the coach tells team in a pre-game speech. If only the filmmakers had heeded that advice.

FYI, the “5th Quarter” referred to in the title is what the final quarter of Wake Forest games came to be called. After Luke’s death, Jon began signaling to his family in the stands (section 5) at the end of the third quarter by holding up his outstretched hand. The rest of his team picked up the gesture, then the fans, and soon even those watching on television began the final quarter with their hands outstretched in honor of Luke’s memory. That last quarter became known as “Luke’s Quarter, the 5th Quarter.” The Abbate family would go on to found The Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation for the purposes of educating young people nationwide to the dangers and life-altering consequences of irresponsible driving.


  • Drugs/Alcohol: Multiple characters shown drinking, sometimes to excess, and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Language/Profanity: Less than a dozen total; the s-word used in various ways, “screw” variations multiple times, a-hole, play your b**** off.
  • Sex/Nudity: Implied: boys talk about “getting some,” Jon and his girlfriend appear to live together; some kissing.
  • Violence: A couple of brief verbal outbursts, otherwise just normal football action.
  • Other: Close up of open heart surgery.