Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Blind Side

The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron and Kathy Bates

Rated: PG-13 one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 20, 2009 Released by: Warner Brothers

This life-affirming, crowd-pleasing conventional sports drama is from The Rookie director John Lee Hancock and based on a 2006 book by Michael Lewis.

The Blind Side stars Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, newcomer Quinton Aaron, and Kathy Bates, and is often boosted by the spitfire performance of Bullock, who has generally charmed audiences in screwball comedies like Miss Congeniality and recently The Proposal. Maybe it has too much righteousness on its side, in contrast to the exemplary Precious, set in 1987 Harlem.

The film is bookended by a meeting of Michael Oher (Aaron) with an official (and without counsel) who turns out to be with the NCAA commitee, as the "slow", yet "gentle giant" comes to grips with learning about family and football as they're related, even religious down south in the Memphis area where the film is set. He seems trapped, unable to express himself and learn even though those like his Biology teacher (Kim Dickens) see something optimistic from a person perceived as dumb.

Bullock's urbane Leigh Anne Tuohy is a high-end decorator with a Taco Bell franchise owner (McGraw) who has earned her way to a life of luxury with two kids as mommy and daddy both attended Ole Miss University, she a cheerleader, he a basketballer.

Her life is impacted when seeing the quiet, lost, plain poor black teenager nicknamed "Big Mike" (Aaron) that she allows to come to her home out of the rain and eventually be his legal guardian. Part of the struggle involves the young man coming to terms of his life in the projects of a city not without its prejudice, especially concerning a drug-addled mother and unstable foster care. And, Leigh Anne listening to her hoity-toity ignorant friends who complain about the cost of salads.

It turns out that Michael (which he prefers over "Big Mike") has the physical, natural ability to protect the quarterback in ways that can save quarterbacks (like the Washington Redskins Joe Theismann as seen in the opening credits narrated by Leigh Anne) from devastating "blind side" hits. He just needs the kind of compassion and empathy that Leigh Anne, a Republican Christian conservative, can provide, as it takes a maternal push that she can give to Michael on the practice field.

The core of the coaching that Hancock did so well in The Rookie and here nearly as well is not letting it be a Bullock movie, but one that has an instinct for realizing all someone can be, which involves having someone's back (as in a tense scene where Michael uses his arm when an airbag could have proved deadly). The scenes that resonate the most are the ones with a more impassioned Bullock and the laconic, sweet Aaron, like one where she reads to him and her younger gregarious son S.J. who attend the same school.

Much of The Blind Side takes place during Michael's uneasy acclimation at a Memphis private school with football and academics as a tutor (a peppy Bates) helps to get him on the mindset. A supportive McGraw is more congenial than in Friday Night Lights which was a more poignant football movie with fury and is good with Bullock and the best line - "whoever thought we'd have a black son before we knew a Democrat?".

In the end, there may not be the surge across the goal line without a setback, but the emotions are there, especially on the mixed feelings when it comes to a crucial decision in Michael's life. "I look and I see white everywhere" and "white guilt" comes to inspiring fruition as Leigh Anne says her life is changed more than Michael's who went on to be an All-American at Ole Miss and is a rookie offensive lineman in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Blind Side  B   B+   B   B   B+   A+   B   B+   B+ 

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