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"A sports drama that's more about the melodrama and less about the sport."
 
"If you are an avid football fan, you may find it hard to take this film seriously."
"The film strikes a feel good chord and achieves some of its inspirational goals."
The Blind Side  

Cast

Leigh Anne Tuohy: Sandra Bullock
Sean Tuohy: Tim McGraw
Michael Oher: Quinton Aaron
Coach Cotton: Ray McKinnon INTERVIEW
S.J. Tuohy: Jae Head
Collins Tuohy: Lily Collins
Review December 2009

Based on the best selling novel, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis comes the motion picture adaptation about All-American football player Michael Oher and his improbable rise to NFL stardom. As a homeless African American teenager, Oher is adopted by the Tuohy's, a well-to-do white family in the suburbs of Nashville who, as it turns out, have obstacles of their own to overcome. By helping Michael reach his full potential, they learn a great deal more about themselves and those around them. Directed by John Lee Hancock, known for the award winning baseball drama The Rookie, The Blind Side is a remarkable true story that unashamedly tugs at the heart strings. Overly sentimental, the film provides Sandra Bullock an opportunity to shine, but allows others to get lost in the huddle. Somewhat unbalanced, The Blind Side equates to a sports drama that's more about the melodrama and less about the sport.

The Blind Side depicts the life of Michael Oher, aka "Big Mike," a homeless African-American teenager who skips from one foster home to another as a result of being abandoned by his mother. Due to his size and athletic abilities, he is accepted into a Christian private school in the hopes that he will play football. While in school, Michael struggles with the academic material, but makes friends with some of his schoolmates, including a younger boy named SJ. Following a Thanksgiving festival at school, SJ's mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy, notices Michael walking alone in the cold and offers to give him a ride. When she learns that he has no home, she puts him up for the night at the Tuohy's house.

In an effort to help, Leigh Anne provides Michael with food, shelter, and clothing. Not to mention lots of coaching when it comes to football and family. In her free time, she also searches for Michael's parents, family, and friends, but without much luck. As a result, Leigh Anne convinces her husband Sean to become legal guardians of Michael and an official member of the Tuohy household, along with their other children, SJ and Collins. And they continue to help Michael focus on academics so that he can graduate and obtain an athletic scholarship to a top NCAA school. But good intentions can often be misunderstood. And an NCAA investigation into the Tuohy's loyalty to the University of Mississippi could derail Michael's chances of attending college and his dreams of playing football.

If you are an avid football fan, you may find it hard to take this film seriously, particularly when the very premise of which it is based is flawed. In the opening sequence, New York Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacks quarterback Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins, causing one of the most horrific injuries of all time - a fractured fibula that puts an end to Theismann's career. That part is true. However, the film uses this play to demonstrate the importance of the left tackle, aka "the blind side," even though the sack was not the result of a missed assignment, but rather a blitz by DE Curtis McGriff and LB Harry Carson and an overall breakdown of the pocket.

Furthermore, the film uses the same play to make another false claim - that the left tackle position is the second highest paid position in the NFL after the quarterback. A claim that is completely unsubstantiated. While OL positions are some of the most critical positions in football, they are still some of the most undervalued.

Opening credits aside, The Blind Side is a perfect example of a true story that has been overdramatized to the brink of schmaltzville. In the film, football scenes are exaggerated to unrealistic levels, i.e. Michael Oher blocking an opponent the entire length of the field and disposing of him behind a wall without a penalty. Then, the supporting cast is dumbed down to make the main characters stand out. In particular, Coach Cotton, who looks like a character straight out of The Waterboy, a silly southern coach who needs to be told what talent is and how to motivate his players. And then there's Michael himself, a character with tremendous athletic ability who can dunk a basketball, but is portrayed as if he's never heard of football? Even Oher himself was displeased with this creative decision.

Still, there are some nice touches that add legitimacy as many NCAA college football coaches play themselves on recruiting trips to haggle over Michael. Philip Fulmer from Tennessee, Lou Holz of South Carolina, Houston Nutt of Arkansas, Nick Saban of LSU, and Ed Orgeron of Ole Miss to name a few. Even recruiting analyst Tom Lemming makes an appearance. And there is a wonderful closing montage that depicts Michael's future career, snapshots of the real Tuohy family with Michael, game photos, and his leap to professional football, where he was drafted 23rd overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 1st round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Make no mistake about it, however, this is a Sandra Bullock vehicle. And perhaps her finest performance to date, if you exclude her brief and stunning appearance in Crash. For unlike the tired romantic leads that Bullock has made a reputation for over the years, The Blind Side allows her to break free of all prior stereotypes and hone something new. While she still carries the same southern charm and sensitivity, there is something quite different at work here: confidence. As Leigh Anne Tuohy, Bullock takes the reigns from the very start as a strong and protective mother, unafraid to flex her muscle to do what's right. "You threaten my son, you threaten me," she exclaims. Even better, she allows the audience to see right through that tough exterior. In brief glimpses, we see her question her personal motives, her decisions, and her family's own welfare.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast suffers from one dimensionality. Played by Quinton Aron, Michael Oher is extremely soft spoken and mopes around a lot. While it may be authentic, it understates the dramatic effect of the story, putting the emphasis on those who want to help Michael rather than the effects of self-empowerment. Equally understated is Leigh Anne Tuohy's husband, Sean. Passively, Tim McGraw plays him as supportive to the extent of being whipped. But you get the sense that there's a great depth of character being withheld, such as the time he recites "The Charge of the Light Brigade" with vigor, demonstrating to Michael the importance of courage.

As far as sports movies are concerned, The Blind Side comes up 4th and long. That's because facts are misconstrued and the game is depicted as slapstick instead of gridiron reality. However, as an uplifting drama about the generosity of others and the importance of family, the film strikes a feel good chord and achieves some of its inspirational goals. Much of that is the result of a stand out performance by Bullock, who balances southern comfort with a no-nonsense approach. While Michael Oher protects the blind side, it is Leigh Anne Tuohy who acts as a catalyst with enough attitude and positive reinforcement to help change any boy into a man.



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