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BLIND SIDE, THE(director/writer: John Lee Hancock; screenwriter: from the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis; cinematographer: Alar Kivilo; editor: Mark Livolsi; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Tuohy), Tim McGraw (Sean Tuohy), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher), Kathy Bates (Miss Sue), Lily Collins (Collins Tuohy), Jae Head (S J Tuohy), Ray McKinnon (Coach Burt Cotton), Kim Dickens (Mrs. Boswell), Adriane Lenox (Denise Oher), Andy Stahl (Principal Sandstrom), Tom Nowicki (Literature Teacher); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Gil Netter/Andrew A. Kosove/Broderick Johnson; Warner Brothers; 2009)
“Despite being factual strains credibility.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie”/”The Alamo”) helms an uplifting but manipulative real-life sports story that never creates enough dramatic tension despite its supposed challenging story line and despite being factual strains credibility, but even worse it gives its white middle-class pandering feel-good story the full liberal Hollywood treatment and becomes offensive as the patronizing benevolent conservative religious white family treat their big black new family member as if he were a favorite pet. Sandra Bullock, the heroine, might at first seem appealing but her plucky saintly act soon becomes increasingly annoying and smothers the film with too much of her coyness and screen dominance.

The title is derived from a football term: a left tackle’s job is to protect the quarterback’s blind side from the rush of the defense. But the film has bigger game in mind than football to tackle and the blind side becomes a metaphor for life lessons–like always living the life of a Christian and protect your own no matter. It’s based on the best-selling book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis, which I did not read but am led to believe was well-written and amusing. However, the gentle giant Christian charity story line in the film can’t get at any sustainable humor nor say anything worthwhile about the dirty business of college recruitment of top football prospects (even as a number of high-profile SEC football coaches such as Nick Sabin-LSU, Lou Holtz-South Carolina and Phillip Fulmer-Tennessee have a cameo doing a heavy selling job in recruiting the prospect). The featured affluent and well-mannered Southern white folks seem to be content in patting themselves on the back for taking into their home a homeless at-risk hulking subdued teenage African-American with a spotty past, who escaped from his crack-addicted mom (Adriane Lenox), a Memphis ghetto and many foster homes when a ward of the state.

When the teenage giantMichael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is spotted on the road dressed in shorts and a T-shirt on a winter night, the sassy successful interior decorator Memphis belle, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock), impulsively invites him to reside in her family’s palatial home; that is, after learning that he’s one of her pretty daughter’s (Lily Collins) classmates. Leigh Anne’s tolerant nice guy wealthy fast-food restaurant magnate hubby Sean (Tim McGraw), a former basketball star at Ole Miss where she was a cheerleader, and their cheerful wisecracking attention-getting 12-year-old SJ (Jae Head), gladly go along with mom’s good deed project.

The uneducated Michael attends the posh Christian academy Wingate, gets privately tutored (Kathy Bates) courtesy of his host family and the raw talent develops football skills that earn him a scholarship to Ole Miss–a school where his guardian angels just happen to be boosters. The white mom tells the buffoonish prep school coach (Ray McKinnon) “If Michael just thinks of the quarterback as his family, he’ll know just what to do to the other team.” There you have it, the raw talent soon after that coaching advice by mom is a star, and after the recruitment of Michael the HS coach is on the Ole Miss staff. Michael thrives on this second chance and in the end credits we learn that he was a first-round pick (23rd) by the Baltimore Ravens and is currently their starting right tackle (which is almost as good as being a left tackle, I think!).

The crowd-pleasing film brings on a number of sports-movie and sitcom-movie clichés, with one in particular that made me wince: Leigh Anne’s society friends are kissing up to her by saying “You’ve changed his life.” But Leigh Anne would have none of that flattery and in a self-satisfied tone replies after a dramatic pause “No, he’s changed mine.”

I think this sugary tale would probably play better critically as an animated Disney family movie–which it really is, anyhow.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”