Bullock, Head shine in ‘The Blind Side’

4 01 2010

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lilly Collins

Release Date: Nov. 20, 2009

Football movies generally fit into one of four categories: the inspirational, feel-good, underdog story (see Rudy), the desegregation of a team and the players consequential growth and tolerance (see Remember the Titans), a gritty look at the realities which each player on a team faces (see Friday Night Lights) or a reminiscent look of a player taken from us too soon (see The Express). Ignoring the fourth, John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side rolls them all into one.

Quinton Aaron, who plays current Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher as a gentle giant, stars opposite Sandra Bullock, in a turn dramatically different from her usual romcom fare, as Leigh Anne Touhy, the matriarch of the family who took the homeless Oher in during his high school years.

While the film is marketed as Oher’s journey with the Touhy family (with Sean (Tim McGraw), SJ (Jae Head) and Collins (Lilly Collins)), it’s less of a look at how Oher’s life is influence by them or theirs by him, and more of a tribute to the Touhy’s Christian spirit. It’s inspiring to see the trust and faith Leigh Anne and her family have in this young man, who ends up at a prestigious Christian school because of his sports ability even though he may not look like the most athletic man.

As the only African American in an all-white environment, the audience is given a quick glimpse into Oher’s feelings about the situation in a poem he wrote and discarded in high school that was found by a teacher. Other than that, the story is about Oher’s love and protective instincts for his new family, and the Touhy’s love and acceptance of him.

Football could almost be an afterthought at this point as the story is already inspiring and uplifting. However, Oher also turned out to be a phenomenal player at his high school and Ole Miss. He was also a first round draft pick in 2009.

But when he met the Touhy’s, Oher had never played the game. The Touhy’s recognized his protective instincts around the family and helped him to focus those instincts on his quarterback and team.

With a handful of legendary coach cameos, such as Lou Holtz from South Carolina and Nick Saban from Alabama, the recruiting scenes provide a bit of a side dish of comedy to the drama that follows Oher’s frequent trips back to his original home on the “wrong side of the tracks” to find his mother and belongings. Jae Head’s rambunctious enthusiasm as SJ, Oher’s adopted little brother, who manages to elicit bribes from the coaches courting the player, is a breathe of fresh air when the movie begins to get too deep.

While the story could cause some to cry foul that the movie portrays the Touhy family as Oher’s saviors without whom he’d be lost to a life of crime and drugs, and the script allows audiences to only scrape the surface of the emotions of each member of the family, it is done extremely well. You laugh, you cry and you feel inspired to do some good in your own community when watching.

Bullock slips seamlessly into the character of Leigh Anne, with only her tell-tale smirk in a couple of scenes giving away the fact that the actress is better known on the romantic comedy side of the camera lens. The Oscar buzz is not undeserved.

Final Verdict: Very Good