The Blind Side


The Blind Side

Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock air out their dirty laundry.

(Warner Brothers) Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Lily Collins, Jae Head, Kim Dickens, Adriane Lenox, Catherine Dyer, Andy Stahl, Tom Nowicki, Libby Whitmore, Brian Hollan, Ray McKinnon. Directed by John Lee Hancock

Accidents happen. There are no accidents. Accidentally on purpose. Is anything really random chance, or is there a destiny for all of us?

Michael Oher (Aaron) has very little going for him other than he’s big and athletic. He can barely read and write his own name, his mother is a crack addict and his father is God knows where. The father of a friend of his works as a janitor at an exclusive private school in Memphis and gets the idea to bring the two of them before the football coach to see if he can get them into Wingate one way or another. Salivating at the chance to get the raw talent onto his team, the coach (McKinnon), almost salivating, convinces the school’s trustees to admit the disadvantaged boy.

However his presence on his friend’s couch has put a strain on them, so Michael is left to his own devices. He moves from place to place, silent and sad, a big sorrowful man-child without any hope or any joy. He doesn’t fit in at his new school, and his old neighborhood is becoming increasingly dangerous.

One cold night he is walking on the side of the road, trying to get into the school gym before it is locked so that he can have a warm place to sit for awhile when by chance the Tuohy family drives by. Its matriarch, Leigh Anne (Bullock) orders her husband Sean (McGraw) to stop the car and in her typically abrupt and no-nonsense manner interrogates the boy. Do you have a place to go? Don’t you dare lie to me! Oher admits he has nowhere to sleep and on the spur of the moment, Leigh Anne decides to bring the boy home and put him up for the night.

Her children SJ (Head) and Collins (Collins) range from enthusiastic (SJ) to not so much (Collins) about the new houseguest as one night stretches into several and then into weeks and at last, months. Leigh Anne drives Michael to his old home to pick up some clothes but they find that his mother has been evicted and nobody knows where she is. Instead, Leigh Anne drives Michael to the nearest Big and Tall store where Michael shows signs of life when offered a rugby shirt in his size.

As the days go by, Oher begins to respond to his academic environment although he is unable to learn in the traditional way. Instead, he picks up on what is told to him verbally. Leigh Ann hires a tutor (Bates) to help him get his grades up and soon he gets his average to the point where he can try out for the football team. The coach’s joy turns to disappointment when Oher turns out to be far too soft and unskilled to be much of a force. It is only when Leigh Anne, to whom Michael has become very attatched to, gives him a pep talk that Michael begins to show what he’s capable of and that is becoming an All-American offensive tackle. However, when he makes a choice for his future, the motivations of his family are called into question and the relationship between Michael and his new family becomes imperiled.

Director Hancock is something of a true sports movie expert, with The Rookie to his credit and again he pulls out all the stops with this one. His best move was casting Bullock in the lead role and she nails the role of Leigh Anne who could intimidate Kimbo Slice if she had half a mind to. She’s tough as nails, suffers no fools but is fiercely loyal to her family with a soft spot for underdogs. There are a surprising number of women like her in the South and if the region has any greatness at all to it, it’s because of them.

McGraw, whose easygoing charm translates nicely to the screen, is solid as the dad, a role he has begun to be attractive to casting agents in. While Head is a bit over-the-top in places as SJ the spirited son, he at least has a great smile and a good sense of comic timing for an actor his age. In fact, all of the actors who play the Tuohy family do a good job of creating a believable onscreen family.

If there’s a problem with The Blind Side it has to do with the script. True sports stories have tended to follow a very similar format in recent movies; an underdog gets inspired in the pursuit of a goal and that inspiration leads to overachievement. When the goal is in reach, something happens to jeopardize the achievement of the goal but in the end the team/individual pulls it together at the last minute to triumph over adversity.

Some of the adversity that is shown here feels scripted and not terribly authentic. Just because a movie says it’s based on a true story does it mean that everything in it is true. Something tells me that some incidents were embellished to create dramatic tension and normally I don’t have a problem with that, but in this case it didn’t feel organic. I think it’s possible that we’ve overdosed on the genre since it felt like I’ve seen it all before and in fact I have.

And that’s not to denigrate Michael Oher or his story in any way. I think it could have been handled a bit differently and written better is all I’m saying. Still in all despite my quibbling this is still a solid movie that I can recommend without hesitation. It gets you in all the right places and makes for a fine cathartic afternoon. Still, the best reason to see this is to watch Bullock at her very best.

REASONS TO GO: Bullock does some of the best work of her career. The family dynamic is believable even if S.J. is too cute to be believed.

REASONS TO STAY: The plot is a bit formula and some of the elements feel scripted instead of true-to-life. Aaron as Oher gives us little insight into his character.

FAMILY VALUES: Some language and some minor violence but otherwise okay for families.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: There are cameos from several Southeastern college football colleges playing themselves, including Phil Fullmer, Nick Saban, Lou Holtz and Tommy Tuberville.

HOME OR THEATER: This can easily fit on the small screen.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Terminator Salvation

New Releases for the Week of November 20, 2009


The Twilight Saga: New Moon

You can bet there are more of these soulful looks where this one came from.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

(Summit) Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Dakota Fanning, Rachelle Lefevre, Michael Sheen, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli. Directed by Chris Weitz

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the hype surrounding the second installment of the wildly successful juvenile vampire series by Stephenie Meyers. Here, soulful vampire Edward Cullen decides to leave his true love Bella in order to protect her from the dangers of the world of the undead, but in leaving her may inadvertantly expose her to even more danger. It will become up to her friend Jacob Black to protect her, but he harbors a secret of his own – and Jacob and Bella find an attraction happening that goes beyond friendship. Expect long lines of frenzied teen, pre-teen and post-teen girls this week.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and action)

The Blind Side

(Warner Brothers) Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Quinton Aaron. From director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) comes another true sports story about a homeless African-American boy who is taken in by a well-to-do white family and finds his life transformed at the same time transforming the lives of his new family. He goes on to become All-American football star Michael Oher.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references)

Coco Before Chanel

(Sony Classics) Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain. Before she was one of the most influential names in fashion, Coco Chanel was an orphan who took an extraordinary journey to become the woman whose name became synonymous with modern fashion. Tautou gives an acclaimed performance in the title role.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and smoking)

Planet 51

(Tri-Star) Starring the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman. The most recent entry into the animated feature sweepstakes is about an astronaut who lands on a new, earth-like planet – and finds it isn’t deserted. Now he must race against time in a xenophobic culture who wants to make him a permanent part of their Alien Invaders Museum to make it back to his command module before it is automatically recalled home without him.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG (for mild sci-fi action and some suggestive humor)

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

(Lionsgate) Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey. A young woman in Harlem circa 1987 overcomes adversity, parental abuse and an indifferent system to try and make something of herself. With a spirit that refuses to give up, and with the help of a precious few sympathetic souls, Precious triumphs over a world that has given her nothing but obstacles. This movie set a box office record for a single weekend opening in less than 100 theaters; now it is opening wide and is getting serious buzz for Oscar season.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language)