Andy Bockelman: Blitz your theater to see ‘The Blind Side’

Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

'The Blind Side'

Rating: ★★★

Length: 126 minutes

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates.

Imagine a movie viewer as a quarterback and the director as a lineman.

As “The Blind Side” will tell you, having the right person looking out for your interests makes all the difference.

Memphis teen Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is barely getting through school, or life, for that matter. Hanging on by a thread to his student slot at the prestigious Briarcrest Christian School, Big Mike — as he is known by his teachers and classmates — doesn’t make an effort because no one is around in his life to care.

The virtually homeless boy’s plight is noticed by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), a parent at the school who insists on taking him into her home. Although temporary at first, Big Mike’s living situation with the Tuohys soon develops into something more as he becomes close to Leigh Anne, her husband Sean (Tim McGraw) and their kids Collins and S.J. (Lily Collins, Jae Head).

With the kind of support he’s lacked most of his life, Big Mike’s scholastic career improves greatly, allowing him to become eligible for the school football team, where his stocky, 6-foot-4 frame can be put to good use.

Bullock is able to beguile audiences on a personal level, even in movies that have been less than spectacular, which isn’t a problem here. She brings a warmth and passion to the role of Leigh Anne, conveying the bond between the real-life, well-to-do woman and her new charge, whom the Tuohys legally adopt.

Aaron gives an equally grand, breakthrough performance as the gentle giant, the subject of countless foster homes after being separated from a drug addict mother (Adriane Lenox). McGraw is fine in a reduced role as Leigh Anne’s spouse, who knows enough not to object to his wife when she has made a decision.

Collins and especially Head do well as the younger Tuohys, who take to having a new sibling unbelievably well.

Kathy Bates also does nicely as Big Mike’s unorthodox tutor, Miss Sue, who helps the athlete develop his intellectual abilities whenever he’s off the gridiron.

NFL Draft Pick Oher’s prowess and perfect build for left offensive tackle is where the movie gets its title, aside from Michael Lewis’ 2006 book, subtitled “The Evolution of a Game.”

The pigskin star plays a prominent part in the author’s explanation of the importance of the left tackle after Lawrence Taylor’s notorious career.

The subject of protection is a crucial theme as Big Mike finds himself not having to fend for himself in life and being able to parlay his protective instincts to the offensive line. But it’s more than just a sports movie.

Besides having an oddly effective parallel between Oher and storybook character Ferdinand the Bull, it’s a fine example for families of all kinds as the Tuohys gain a greater degree of intimacy as a result of Oher’s presence in their home.

The story chances to be somewhat condescending and comes riskily close to promoting its main character as a charity case, but writer/director John Lee Hancock seems aware of this and addresses this hazard directly and tactfully, making the film the motivational piece that it deserves to be.

The message that viewers of “The Blind Side” should come out of the cinema with is that of the power of reaching one’s full potential. Oher’s achievements are presented as being the result of his own work, with only a helping hand and not a handout from his adoptive family putting him on the path to success.

And by blocking against the easy, empty clichés, Hancock allows for his film to truly score a touchdown.

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