Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw
Directed by: John Lee Hancock (“The Alamo”)
Written by: John Lee Hancock (“The Alamo”)
While Sandra Bullock has flocked to typical airhead roles for most of her career, she chooses something with a bit more substance in the inspirational sports film “The Blind Side.” It’s unfortunate, however, to see director/writer John Lee Hancock (“The Alamo”) take a more conventional route in this true-life story that starts off strong but eventually settles back into a comfortable spot on the sidelines.
In “The Blind Side,” Bullock plays Leigh Anne Touhy, a wealthy Southern wife and mother who opens her home to a homeless, uneducated black teenager everyone calls Big Mike (Quinton Aaron). Today, Big Mike is known better as Michael Oher, rookie offensive tackle for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
Based on the 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis, the film version of Oher’s story can be moving at times, but such a major portion of the film is centered around the philanthropic nature of Leigh Anne and her family, Hancock somehow dodges the heart of the story.
Michael comes from a broken home. His mother has abandoned him and he has no support system to guide him through his most formidable years. In steps Leigh Anne and her family (Tim McGraw plays the agreeable husband) ready to mold Michael into a successful young man with a bright future. Along the way, football enters into the big picture although the sport itself doesn’t play much of a role other than being a metaphorical connection to the film’s title. Since Michael’s position on the gridiron is offensive left tackle, it’s his job to protect the quarterback’s vulnerable “blind side.” It’s basically another way of saying Michael has the ability to stand strong against any adversity he faces in life.
While the underlying meanings are all well-intended, it would have been nice to get a better sense of Michael as a real human being rather than someone written only as gentle giant. The character is probably close to who Michael was at that time in his life, but Hancock drives those big teddy bear-like characteristics into the ground. He even compares Michael to “Ferdinand the Bull,” a children’s story about a bovine who would rather smell flowers than participate in bullfights.
It’s a sweet idea, but one that makes the Touhy’s good deeds seem more like a charity case than something genuine and heartfelt. It’s not until the credits roll and real-life photos of Michael and Leigh Anne replace the cliché movie that just ended when we feel closer to these characters.
There really is a moving film somewhere inside all the marshmallow stuffing of “The Blind Side.” It probably would have made more of an impact if it was presented as an ESPN-produced, 10-minute-long human interest story shown at halftime of a Baltimore Ravens playoff game. Instead, we’re dealt a cuddly feature film in dire need of some edge.