'The 5th Quarter'

The softness that plagues so many sports movies is in evidence yet again in the soporific "The 5th Quarter."

The softness that plagues so many sports movies is in evidence yet again in the soporific “The 5th Quarter,” a true-story weepie that leaves even the reliable Andie MacDowell flailing. Dramatizing the tragic death of young athlete Luke Abbate and how it inspired his older brother, Jon, and his Wake Forest, N.C., football squad, the film is poorly written and directed at the most basic levels, spelling quick B.O. ejection.

Like a kickoff out-of-bounds, the film seems off from its opening minutes, cross-cutting awkwardly among high schooler Luke (Stefan Guy) at team practice; his mom, Maryanne (MacDowell), tending to everyday tasks; his dad, Steven (Aidan Quinn), delivering Luke his uniform; his older brother, Jon (Ryan Merriman), working out; and a woman (Anessa Ramsey) at a park whose identity is revealed only in the final scene. The needlessly fussy montage climaxes with Luke getting into the passenger seat of a pal’s car before a nasty crash.

The film’s middle stretch is one long melodrama, as Luke’s prolonged demise prompts the family to question whether his vital organs should be donated. When Luke dies, and his heart reportedly finds a recipient. Quinn is given free rein to overact, particularly during Luke’s funeral, so it’s a bit of a relief that the relatively subtle Merriman dominates much of the rest of the film, as Jon takes on the burden of honoring Luke’s memory on the gridiron.

The mechanics of football appear beyond writer-director-producer Rick Bieber’s ability to capture onscreen, as the film cuts haplessly between newly shot material and video footage of actual Wake Forest games during a miracle season in 2006. As phony as the sports action feels, nothing is odder here than the fact that the parents’ roles are virtually forgotten for stretches at a time, until Mom’s considerable emotional crisis is finally addressed in a last-minute effort — call it a Hail Maryanne.

The actors work hard, but the hackneyed material defeats their best efforts. Among the subpar production contributions, the soundtrack (with Bieber’s credited music supervision) stands out for its vexing habit of inserting a new song cue seemingly every other minute.

The 5th Quarter

Production

A Warner Bros. release of an Angel City presentation in association with McCreary Entertainment. Produced by Rick Bieber. Executive producers, Alan Cohen, Bob J. McCreary. Co-producers, Ryan Johnston, Doug Ames. Directed, written by Rick Bieber.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor/B&W), Craig Haagensen; editor, Mark Conte; music, Andy Mendelson; music supervisor, Bieber; production designer, Sophia Mandalana Martinez Moore; costume designer, Deborah Latham Binkley; sound (stereo), James Mase; supervising sound editor, Michael Graham; re-recording mixers, Terry O'Bright, Keith Rogers; line producer, Phil Smoot; associate producers, Joel McDonell, Abby Gail Palanker; assistant director, Franklin A. Vallete; second unit camera, Mike Ferris; casting, Monika Mikkelsen, Sheila Jaffe, Tracy Kilpatrick. Reviewed at Aidikoff screening room, Beverly Hills, March 15, 2011. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Steven Abbate - Aidan Quinn
Maryanne Abbate - Andie MacDowell
Jon Abbate - Ryan Merriman
Coach Grobe - Michael Harding
Joanmarie - Stacy Earl
With: Matt D. McGrath, Julian Batherson, Sammy Nagi Njugana, Stefan Guy, Josh Smith, Micah Andrews, Mandy Manis, Steve Uria, Anessa Ramsey.

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