Who’s In It: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates
The Basics: Memphis teenager Michael Oher (newcomer Quinton Aaron) is a statistic: he’s homeless and poor, long abandoned by his absentee father and addict mom. Accepted into a Christian private school on the basis of his athletic potential, Michael is still years behind thanks to a childhood spent in – gasp! – the public education system, and on top of that, he’s got serious emotional trauma dating back to mysterious events in his childhood. Enter Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), a local interior decorator and the power blond matriarch of an affluent Memphis family who takes Michael in on one rainy night. Through their Christian graces and sheer kindness, the Tuohys offer Michael things he’s never had before: a home, a family, and opportunities.
What’s the Deal: The Blind Side is based on the real life experience of Michael Oher, an offensive tackle who went on to go All American at Ole Miss and is currently in his rookie season playing for the Baltimore Ravens. (Hooray for happy endings!) As such, the film is at once an inspirational sports movie and a moving true story, so don’t blame it for dipping into treacly territory now and again. But despite moments of extreme tear jerking, The Blind Side is an entertaining and heartwarming story with plenty of sass, thanks to Sandra Bullock. Kind of like a tamer Precious, only with more football and less Mariah Carey.
Porn for Southern College Football Enthusiasts: Save a smattering of football scenes in which the talented but untrained 300-lb. Michael shoves a bunch of scrawny opponents around, The Blind Side is surprisingly low on sports action. However, just about every coach in the Southeastern Conference turns in a cameo under the guise of recruiting Michael, including Lou Holz (South Carolina), Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee), and Nick Saban (Alabama). Hot!
About the Race Thing: On its face, the idea of a rich white woman taking in a poor black kid is semi gag-worthy. Writer-director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) tries his best to address the challenges of balancing a story full of racial stereotypes, mostly succeeding when it comes to explaining why the Tuohys care enough to adopt Michael. But The Blind Side shows a weak hand when it comes to showing life in Michael’s old hood, where a laughably clichéd drug dealer (IronE Singleton) rules his own little fiefdom in the projects.
Seriously, Sandra Bullock Is Back! I have to admit, after the miserable failure of her last film All About Steve, I laughed in the face of the very idea that Sandra Bullock could open her worst film and her best film in recent memory in the span of a few months. The Blind Side is an enormous boost for Bullock, who gets to flex her dramatic chops and comic tough girl chutzpah in equal measure. As the manicured Southern football-obsessed housewife with a heart of gold, Bullock gives a tour de force performance that really deserves more attention come awards season. More importantly, Bullock pulls off a feat that few other actors of her generation could: she makes a Republican character likable.