The Blind Side
For all of the storylines that the world of sports produces on a daily basis, mainstream movies and their infinitely more uncreative makers seem to only be able to commit one strict formula to cellulose – the underdog. This leaves sports geeks pretty much out in the cold, which is probably fine with them since they’d rather be watching the actual game anyway. It does, however, leave those of us who enjoy both scrambling to gobble up any sports related HBO or ESPN documentary we can find as sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get.
John Lee Hancock’s surprise blockbuster The Blind Side isn’t brave enough to stray from the formula, and in this case we are dealing with a kid from the projects who eventually, through the kindness of strangers, finds himself a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Not exactly staggering in his innovation, Hancock is kind enough to throw those sports geeks far more bones than they are used to. In no way will it rock your world, but it does tell its story exceedingly well and is enchanting enough to overcome it’s glaring flaws.
At times The Blind Side almost seems to beg its audience, especially its urban/liberal audience, to shower it with scorn. Many are likely to notice its subtle racism and not so subtle elitism. The kid from the projects, Michael Oher, is adopted by the Tuohy’s, a very well to do Southern white family (they appear to live at Thornfield Manor) and has football thrust upon him for no other reasons than he is huge and that the Tuohy’s have a passion for pigskin. Paying no attention to the fact that he has no Earthly idea what he is doing on a football field, Leigh Anne Tuohy (a cartoony Sandra Bullock) works hard to make sure that football is crammed down his throat until he becomes a top collegiate prospect. As terrible as this may sound, the differences, plotwise, between this movie and, say, Air Bud are minimal at best.
Hancock wrote and directed the film and he shows a certain expertise at manipulating the audience. Your best strategy for dealing with this is just pretend you don’t notice and go along for the ride because otherwise this heartwarming tale of humanity and charity will be soiled. He also has a serious taste for inserting clunky bits of dialogue into the script just to advance some message he is trying to get across (see: the Thanksgiving dinner scene). But as Mike moves from a home of drug abuse and poverty to a saint-like Christian school to the middle of a recruiting war, we see that if nothing else Hancock can at least craft a silky smooth story for the people that goes down easy.
Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy lends a hand by turning in an assured understated performance as a kindhearted father which stands in contrast to the drunken abusive football dad he played in the movie version of Friday Night Lights. He also helps balance out the attention hog that is Sandra Bullock, here employing an over-the-top Southern accent and solidifying her comeback of the year award.
By all indications Hancock decided that the best thing to do with the source material, a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, a serious sports author, would be to go for a box office slam-dunk by covering everything with a thick layer of cheese. As it turns out neglecting the critics and pandering to the fans was the perfect economic strategy, but one that also serves to cheapen what the real Tuohy’s did for the real Oher. They have bigger fish to fry these days, like where to spend all the money that is rolling in, so certainly they aren’t losing any sleep over the whole issue.
And there is just something about its Southern values and plain workmanlike feel that seduced me. The walk on cameos from real SEC coaches (representing the teams they coached back in 2004!!) and the second by second analysis of the play that ended Joe Theismann’s career helped in their own way as well. So despite having some really repugnant things going on within it The Blind Side somehow, shockingly works and is worth your time.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quniton Aaron, Kathy Bates
Director: John Lee Hancock
Runtime: 128 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros