A tight-knit family triumphs over adversity in this inspirational, if clunky sports story. Tragedy enters the lives of Georgia's Abbate family when 15-year-old Luke suffers a devastating brain injury in a senseless car crash. His older brother, Jon (Ryan Merriman, recalling Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights
), a linebacker for Wake Forest University, rushes home to join Steven (Aidan Quinn) and Maryanne (Andie MacDowell) by Luke's side, where they learn that he'll never recover, so they take him off life support. With the encouragement of his parents and surviving siblings, Jon returns to North Carolina, but Luke is always on his mind (he even adopts his brother's "5" for his jersey). After a rough beginning, he starts playing better than ever, and goes on to lead the low-ranked Demon Deacons to the most successful season in the school's history. He also meets a young mother who got a new lease on life because of the loved one he lost. And that's pretty much all there is to it, not counting Maryanne's brief battle with depression and Steven's bouts of denial. Inspired by a true story, The 5th Quarter
is unabashedly sentimental, chock-full of clichés, and smothered in sappy ballads, but its intentions seem sufficiently honorable: to encourage organ donation and to discourage reckless driving (for which Luke was not responsible). Of the leads, Merriman and MacDowell, a natural-born Southerner, acquit themselves adequately, so it's too bad that Quinn has to overact so wildly. Sometimes subtlety speaks louder than strident gesticulations. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
In the spirit of The Blind Side comes this inspiring true story of family, faith and football. Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell deliver emotionally stirring performances as the mother and father of Jon Abbate, a rising football star at Wake Forest University. Their lives are suddenly shattered when the family's youngest son, Luke, is killed in a tragic accident. Inspired by Luke's memory, Jon courageously leads the Wake Forest team to a series of last-minute victories - leading to a thrilling climax that will 'make you stand up and cheer!' (NYC Movie Guru).