Published Nov 19, 2009The Blind Side is a good example of competent hackwork, belonging to that much-maligned sub-genre I like to call "inspirational white women movies," in which a compassionate white woman helps lift one or more inner city black students from the squalor of the ghetto and provide love and education.
This time she's Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), a wealthy, sharp-tongued Tennessee mother who, with her husband Sean (Tim McGraw), takes in Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a massive, homeless, functionally illiterate black teenager who goes to her children's school.
This film is based on a true story: Michael Oher was recently selected in the 2009 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, and we see footage of the announcement near the film's conclusion. This footage, as well as the real-life photographs included in the end credits, lends credibility to the story, which hits a lot of the same bases as similar race-based "inspirational" films, from snooty, upper-class racists to Michael being tempted back to the ghetto, but is well-oiled and likeable throughout.
The success of a movie like this depends on how much we like its characters, and the cast of The Blind Side hit all the right notes. Bullock is plausible and effective, even if her character's sassiness can get a little overbearing. McGraw has charm as her supportive, patient husband. Quinton Aaron is surprisingly understated, giving the most stone-faced performance since Buster Keaton. And, as pre-teen S.J. Touhy, Jae Head is one of the only child actors in screen history to make the "overly precocious kid" thing work.
At 128 minutes, the film runs a little long ― certainly the car crash at least could have been cut. It's also anything but subtle; director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) underlines most scenes with an aggressive musical score and bookends the film with a voiceover from Bullock that needlessly explains the film's message.
Still, the true story being told is strong enough that The Blind Side, for all its familiarity, ends up being very hard to dislike. (Warner)