Movie Review: The Blind Side
Rating: PG-13 (Some drug and sexual references and violence)
Length: 129 minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2009
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Stars: 4 out of 5
Michael Lewis' true book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, is the inspiration for this sweet sporting tale. It focuses on the molding of a young man who was given love and the opportunity to live up to his potential. John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It follows the theme of heartwarming sports dramas like he had worked on in the past.
In "The Blind Side" Young Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) comes from a heartbreaking background. Raised in a desperately poor economic situation, he was shuffled around from school to school and even did not attend classes at all for an 18-month time period. After Michael befriends her young son, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) takes the boy in for what is supposed to be just one night, but ends up giving him a permanent home with her well-to-do family. The level of his past poverty is revealed when Michael marvels that he "never had one before," and Tuohy assumes he means his own room. But she is corrected when he tells her that he has never had a bed.
Slowly, but surely, Michael comes out of his introverted shell and makes an impact on the family. He is a big kid-softly spoken-and has a teddy bear-like quality to him. Aaron is not a well-known actor like Bullock does, but he holds up to the demanding task of playing alongside her. His portrayal of Michael is quite endearing. The boy feels vulnerable and just seems to know that he has a great chance to turn his life around. The joy and the struggles he faces all feel very palpable.
Bullock's character is a feisty, southern-born lady. She is the matriarch of a tight-knit, conservative, Christian family. Her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), is a kind and easygoing millionaire; he supports her in helping Michael. Their children are daughter Collins (Lily Collins) and young son S.J. (Jae Head). The family is a huge supporter of football, with particular loyalty to the alma mater of the parents-the University of Mississippi.
Leigh Anne locates Michael's mother and speaks with her about the boy. The woman is addicted to crack and, in no way, is able to help her boy. She gives Leigh Anne verbal acceptance of the Touhy's taking Michael in. She is used to being blunt and to the point, and people normally do as she says. She uses her unadulterated tenacity and skills in persuasion to convince her children's private school's football coach to give Michael a chance to play for his team-giving the boy admission to the fancy school. Michael is at first reluctant to use his size to his advantage; it makes him feel like a bully. But when one of the team moms puts the idea of the team being his family-that he has to protect-in his head, there is no stopping Michael from using every gift he has on the football field.
The family stops eating dinner while watching television. In one cheerful scene, they sing during Thanksgiving dinner. The results of living in a happy, integrated family become apparent in Michael's school work. With the help of his tutor, Miss Sue (Kathy Bates), his grades become decent. There is no way that anyone who views this film cannot help but cheer for Michael as he progresses. Thankfully, there are some rough patches, or otherwise the story would have just felt unreal. But the young man manages to defy the odds, and sometimes all that people want are stories of hope and reward for perseverance. The ultimate redemption comes when Michael becomes a number one contender for the NFL draft.
The story is an inspiration in many ways. Leigh Ann certainly did not have to help Michael-she just did. She brought a young man-from a family far the opposite of her own-into her home, despite the risk of failure. But it's not just a benefit to Michael. Leigh Ann was told, "You're changing that boy's life." To which she replied, "No. He's changing mine." It is a feel-good story worth watching again and again, with a simple, enduring message: Love thy neighbor. Someday he just might end up playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
Have plenty of tissues for this one.