Skip to content

The Blind Side (2009) **1/2

February 10, 2010



written by: John Lee Hancock (based on a book by Michael Lewis)

produced by: Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove & Gil Netter

directed by: John Lee Hancock

Rated PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references.

128 min.

U. S. release date: November 20, 2009

DVD & Blu-Ray release date: March 23, 2010


Audiences and award season have been very good to Alcon Entertainment’s “The Blind Side” and it’s star Sandra Bullock yet most critics and media have lambasted the film for pandering saccharine and offensive racism. Apparently, it’s offensive if a sassy, well-off white woman helps an African-American gentle giant in need find his place in life. Really. Really? I just don’t see it and for that, I am glad. Here is a wide audience pleaser like many of the best “feel-good” movies of the past, sports-related or not. I’m not so cynical as to tear apart a film based on an inspiring true story (most doing so have not even seen it) just because I feel it’s cliché. Now, it may be formulaic and it certainly has the propensity to pull on the heartstrings but it’s far from cliché. After all, cliché is defined as commonplace and since when is it common to hear a story about someone turning around another person’s life (with no hidden agenda), for the better?

By now, everyone has heard the story of Michael Oher, current offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. Once “The Blind Side” was released last fall, it was covered everywhere. While I’m sure many knew of Oher and his upbringing, I’m also sure there are people like me out who had never heard of him until this movie. I vividly recall keeping this film on my radar, thinking “this could be good” after I saw the trailer. This was a total surprise to me since I had seen it right after a saw the trailer for “All About Steve” a Bullock flop that was sandwiched between “The Proposal” (her hit from last summer) and this film. Two hits out of three….quite the year she is having.

 The opening of the film introduces us to Leigh Anne Tuohy’s (Sandra Bullock) voice defining the term “blind side” with references to left tackle Lawrence Taylor, while that infamous and painful Joe Theismann footage is shown. So, from the start we know that Bullock has a southern twang and has football smarts. We also get the idea that she has sass and that football is just as important to her family as it is to all those Texans in “Friday Night Lights”. Soon we are introduced to “Big Mike” (Quinton Aaron), a tall, predominately mute teenager who has been bounced around various foster homes all his life. After some convincing by his current foster father and persuading by a drop-jawed coach, the board at Wingate Christian School agrees to take him in.

This act may have saved him from life in the Memphis projects, but Big Mike still has to overcome learning, social and domestic obstacles. At first, it seems he’ll have to deal with such struggles on his own, something he is more than used to. But his life is forever changed when the Tuohy family notices Big Mike in the cold rain without a coat or umbrella, from the warmth of their vehicle. Leigh Anne’s husband, Sean (Tim McGraw) knows the look on his wife’s face as she has him stop the car. Next thing we know, the obvious takes place as we see the gentle giant get taken in by the Tuohy family, something that is noticed by just about everyone, except Leigh Anne. She’s not clueless to the talk around her, she’s just all about doing what she thinks is right.

While her heart may be in the right place, it takes Big Mike to unknowingly teach her that in helping someone else, it’s imperative to know and understand that person along the way. Bullock displays this revelation throughout the film in understated ways.  She knows that Leigh Anne has to be a ball-busting lioness at times but also knows that if that’s all she was, the audience would lose interest.  Bullock showcases many of Leigh Anne’s brazen antics that may strike some viewers as off-putting but these scenes play more for characterization than they do over-reaching comedy. While there are times where her positive resilience is in overdrive, it’s those quiet times where we see her reflect on Big Mike and the impact she is making in his life that solidify this as one of Bullock’s finest performances.


Football weaves throughout the film but it comes across as merely an element or catalyst to the story. The viewer knows though that the relationship between Leigh Anne and Michael is the compelling part of the story, as it should be. When the coach fails, Leigh Anne breezes in and helps Big Mike (he makes it clear he wants to be called Michael) understand football in a way only he will comprehend. There are some blatant comedic moments as Michael tries to figure out his place on the team and how everyone reacts to his large presence. The best sports-related films though are ones where we know more about what happens off the field.

Writer/director John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie”) adapts the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game into a serviceable script with an overall adequate look and feel. At times, he winds up “telling” instead of trusting that the audience will pick up on what is being shown. That’s kind of annoying yet what’s more annoying is some of the interaction the supporting characters have with the two leads. The sibling relationship Michael develops with Leigh Anne’s boy, S.J. (Jae Head) becomes borderline grating. We get that it’s easier for Michael to connect with younger children but we don’t have to get hit over the head with it. More tolerable was the back and forth between Michael and Collins (Lilly Collins), the teenage daughter, who has to deal with her classmates eye-balling Michael as the elephant in the room, or, class. It would’ve been nice to see McGraw’s character more developed. He has a few nice moments with Leigh Anne, showing how he can calm her but too often we’re given this “here she goes again” response from him that makes him seem like a sitcom husband. These type of character strokes diminish the film’s potential to consistently immerse a viewer.

Although this is primarily Michael’s story and he gets quite a bit of screen time, we really only see glimpses of who he is. Our gateway to Michael is through the perspectives of those around him, which is a disservice to the audience. It’s somewhat understandable since we don’t see him open up that much initially. But once he finds himself surrounded by others who invest their time in him like his caring teacher, Ms. Boswell (an underused Kim Dickens)  and his creative tutor, Miss Sue (a wasted Kathy Bates), I wanted him to respond more; show more emotion. Maybe that’s too much to ask for in a two hour film and it’s probably how the teenage Michael really was. Come to think of it, getting more than a one-work utterance out of a teen boy is a miracle.

There is a plot device toward the end involving the NCAA that feels like a needless audible. Like many of the situations we find Michael in, it serves to force drama where drama already exists. Instead of trusting his audience, Hancock derails the tone with this melodrama. All he had to do was just trust that the audience would do well enough with the drama the actors were already in. Regardless of such pitfalls, I still maintain that this is a pleasant viewing experience. Bullock is a standout in a film rife with familiar feel-good conventions. Her nominations and awards are warranted (not so sure about an Oscar though) yet the overall film is hardly Best Picture material. However the film hits you, it’s hard not to notice the word-of-mouth success of a film with such an inspiring message.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: