The Blind Side, the true life story of a wandering “orphan” taken in by a wealthy Tennessee family, works on the premise of clever subterfuge. The film is being marketed as a rags-to-riches sports success tale, but ultimately, it’s not that as much as it is a dollop of inspirational suggestion on matters of humanity, economic responsibility and showing a “blind side” to race; all in a football slicked shell. Director John Lee Hancock’s (The Rookie) adaptation of the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” avoids a few of the obvious sports cliches (or uses them as red herrings) and has a such a decent and sane message to deliver, its mild faults of being overlong and sugarcoated should be overlooked.
Dramatically taken from his drug-addicted Mother at an early age, the gentle Michael “Big Mike” Oher has been through the foster home mill from childhood to adolescence. Thanks to a caring foster parent, Michael is admitted to an all-white Christian school when the coach sees his athletic skill and dreams of the day he can put Michael on his football team. But first …there’s those grades. Soon after his admittance, Michael is again abandoned and is seen roaming the streets by Leigh Anne Tuohy ( Sandra Bullock) and her family, who eventually give him a place to stay, a place to live and legal guardianship. Under their care, Michael blooms from an insecure cipher to an all-star Left Tackle and C+ student while equally expanding and enhancing the lives of those around him.
If there’s one fault, The Blind Side could have used 20 minutes of editing to streamline its overlong 120 minutes. The Blind Side finds its stride in lighter (though dangerously bordering on silly) moments but still holds sound, if a little more subdued, footing with the dramatic as well. And while it does lose some momentum in a cynical hangup the family confronts near the end, the slowdown is only a mild setback.
As Leigh Anne Tuohy, a no-nonsense “trophy wife” blond, Bullock deftly carries the steely charm of an independent Southern woman: the kind who will happily punch all comers a new pruney, but only for their own good. And where most actors twang the living crap out of their Southern accents, Bullock makes hers sound pleasantly natural. It’s a subtle note, but one that adds to the performance rather than goofily detracting from it.
Played opposite Bullock, everybody’s favorite country singer and hair plug recipient Tim McGraw provides a subdued and pleasant marital aspect as the loving, mild-mannered husband who knows, no matter what, his wife will knock him the crap out should he ever disagree. Strangely, there’s a missing connection with Michael (as played by Quinton Aaron), a disconnect compounded by his quiet nature and the dominant story focus on the Tuohy family. Still, he evokes enough empathy, inspiration and strength to bolster what could have easily been a cardboard cutout.
I have a hard time faulting a movie as earnest as this one, which is receiving some cynical lumps via the usual “Race Offense!” mumblers. These self-appointed Captains of Umbrage shallowly accuse The Blind Side of “pandering to white guilt” and “self congratulation”. I wonder when these over-analytical navel-gazers will stop looking at films and finding offense where none is intended and take time to uncover humanity beyond their outdated, cemented-in-victimization mindset. The Blind Side certainly deals with race, but that’s not the thrust of the story– it’s an outlier. The real value- the real story- is the responsibility owed to everyone by everyone: caring for your fellow man. It’s a concept that knows no racial boundary. To hold The Blind Side in contempt for telling a true story that can serve as inspiration to people of all stripes is not only myopic, it’s petty.
Yes, The Blind Side sugar coats some “hard” issues, but it doesn’t shy away from them either. When Leigh Anne asks her husband if she should be worried that Michael will steal something in his first night in their home, that’s an uncomfortable, emotionally honest moment. But to its credit, The Blind Side’s focus isn’t its characters faults, it’s their strengths and when Leigh Anne’s inexperienced fears are quickly shown baseless, the narrative optimistically moves on.
The Blind Side isn’t groundbreaking or profound by any means, but as part of a genre that’s conditioned audiences to expect a hard downers to bubble up in some form or another, The Blind Side never really produces any. It’s a good choice– one that keeps a focus on The Blind Side’s humanistic intentions and gives us a movie that’s better for it.