‘Blind Side’ breaks beyond its genre

3 and ½ out of 5 Pitchforks

Published On:
Friday, November 20, 2009
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3.5 out of 5 pitchforks
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

If you attempted to count on your fingers the number of movies where a hapless person uses sports to turn his or her life around, you’d have to grow a couple extra hands.

The genre of inspiring sports films based on true stories has a number of repeats and familiar stories in its narrow range of work, and about every six months, a new one seems to find itself green-lit, on its way to the silver screen.

This time it’s “The Blind Side,” based on the novel, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” by Michael Lewis, directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Alamo,” “The Rookie”). At first glance, it may seem like just another uplifting, forgettable sports movie. Instead, we are given a legitimately cute, heartwarming and amusing film, that despite it’s formulaic plot, stylized characters and 126-minute runtime, leaves the viewer laughing and refreshed, instead of bored.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a homeless, 17-year-old who can barely read, rarely talks, doesn’t know who his father is and was taken away from his crack-addicted mother at a very young age. He has little going for him besides his immense 6-foot-4, 304-pound body. With this one advantage, he is able to get accepted into a private Christian school to play football, a game he knows next to nothing about.

Michael has nowhere to go when he leaves the gate of his prestigious school and wanders the streets, looking for somewhere to sleep. It is in one of these instances when the wealthy Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), her husband Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) and their family pass him by on the street and offer him a place to sleep in their home. From here their relationship evolves, and the Tuohys become Oher’s new family, something Oher has never had before.

Sound familiar?

It should. The story, though inspiring and heartwarming, is not what makes this movie stand out. It does all the right things, and is touching, but nothing that hasn’t been done before.

Despite her terrible hair and unnatural Southern accent (luckily, it eventually grows on you), Sandra Bullock does a wonderful job as Leigh Anne Touhy, guiding this film away from the unimaginative and conventional path that it could have so easily followed. Bullock gives a refreshing performance as a stubborn, strong Southern woman who won’t take crap from anyone. She shows off her comedic side while also displaying that she can get serious when the time calls for it. She feels natural in the role, distracting us from the standard-issue story being portrayed.

Tim McGraw, as Leigh Anne’s husband, balances out the relationship well. He’s calm and collected, while his intense wife gets things done. The couple is a joy to watch, not bickering at each other over where Oher should stay but working together in harmony. It’s refreshing, for once in a movie, to see a couple that is truly in love.

The most endearing part of the film has to be Jae Head as S.J. Tuohy, the youngest member of the Tuohy family, and the first to accept Oher into his heart. The spunky kid is much too smart for anyone his age and twice as witty. When he’s on-screen, you can’t help but smirk, especially when he’s dwarfed by Oher. The two make an odd couple, whose relationship is a joy to watch develop on-screen.

Quinton Aaron’s portrayal of Oher is done with a mix of gloomy facial expressions and the spoken equivalent of one, short sentence. He does a good job of not being forgotten while letting everyone else take the spotlight. When Oher does make some sort of expressive statement, Aaron makes it count, showing what a softy he is and reminding us that he’s no dummy.

“The Blind Side” should have been a nondescript sports film, but, thanks to a cast of memorable characters and some comical performances, it makes its mark on the genre. It succeeds at accomplishing what its going for without coming off corny or melodramatic, and with a movie of this nature, you can’t realistically hope for anything more.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu