The Blind Side Review

(2.5 STARS)

Many of you probably think I hate “The Blind Side.” That’s understandable. I vaguely remember saying something like “I almost vomited when the film was nominated for Best Picture.” But I don’t hate it. I actually kind of like it. I just think it’s so derivative that to nominate it alongside films as original and daring as “Inglourious Basterds” and “A Serious Man” is something of an insult to those films. I think John Lee Hancock’s film has its moments. On the whole, however, I found it predictable and corny; a crowd-pleaser for sure, but also pretty stale.

The film tells the true story of Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her quest to make a better life for Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a poor black teenager with nothing but the clothes on his back who eventually becomes her son. Oher, who was taken from his mother as a boy, is shuffled from foster home to foster home until one rainy day when he meets Leigh Anne, and she takes him in for the night. Despite the objections of her rich Southern friends, Leigh Anne eventually gives Michael a permanent home in the Tuohy household where he learns about football and his own potential.

The second half of the film, which is the weaker of the two portions, focuses less on Michael’s integration into an upper class Memphis family. Instead, we follow his path to become a football great. We see him in his first game, practicing plays with his new brother, S.J. (Jae Head), and being recruited to every major school in the South.

The pleasures in this section of the film don’t come out of the resolution (everyone knows what happens before the film begins, even if you haven’t heard of the Michael Oher, now starting for the Baltimore Ravens), but rather the journey itself. For while the film is predictable, but a few emotionally compelling detours along the way make it more easily digestible than one might expect (especially if they judge the film by its awful trailer).

The presence of Sandra Bullock is probably the reason why this film took off so much. She’s good, but the performance is wildly overrated (in fact, considering she’s the frontrunner going up against Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, and Gabourey Sidibe, I think calling it overrated is being kind). Leigh Anne is a sassy Southern belle who forges a very powerful connection with Michael, someone who barely speaks. She’s got a lot of good lines and is fun to watch throughout. But I don’t think there’s anything Oscar-worthy about the performance. It’s a well-written character, but the acting is unremarkable.

The rest of the cast is also unremarkable, all a step below Bullock. Quinton Aaron is bland as Michael. The part calls for him to do that, but even in the more emotional scenes, Aaron does little to help his character jump off the screen. Tim McGraw (yes, that Tim McGraw) plays Leigh Anne’s husband Sean, who does little more than watch Ole Miss games on television. Then there’s Jae Head as S.J. who is set up to be the spunky little brother to Michael. He comes off more annoying than anything else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the stark differences to how race is handled in this film compared to fellow Best Picture nominee “Precious.” Surprisingly, this film does not gloss over issues like white guilt. However, I took issue with the reasons why Michael is given a second chance. Had he not been an ideal physical specimen, I doubt he would have gotten out of the projects, never mind gone to college. In “Precious,” the title character discovers her self-worth through the guidance of her teacher and friends; in this film, Michael finds his worth on a football field, which is fine, but no matter what Leigh Anne says (and I don’t doubt her motives the way some characters do), Michael Oher would still be in the projects without football. He still wouldn’t know his full potential.

For all the fanfare about Bullock’s performance, and all the talk about a heartwarming story unlike any other in 2009, “The Blind Side” is simply a formulaic underdog story. I like my Best Picture nominees with a little originality (which is why I protested more to this film than I did to “District 9,” which I actually disliked more). That quality is absent in this film. It was a good enough story, but nothing stood out. I felt like I had seen it a hundred times before. I know I’ll likely see it a hundred more times. I just hope the next hundred don’t waste a Best Picture slot as well.

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