The Blind Side (2009)

The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis's nonfiction book *The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game*. It tells a remarkable story: a homeless, neglected, uneducated African American teenage boy is taken in by a wealthy, white Southern family. He thrives in a stable home, his latent athletic talents are released, and he goes on to a career in the NFL. That's the story of Michael Oher, now a left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. 

A left tackle -- a very rare and specialized kind of athlete -- is a kind of protector, a massive, unstoppable force, a wall between the quarterback and the opposing team. In The Blind Side, there are two left tackles: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), who is a gentle giant, and Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), the multitasking little spitfire who takes the lad under her wing after literally finding him walking the streets. She protects him from rich snobs, redneck racists, and drug dealers. Leigh Anne's about a third the size of Michael, but with her fierce maternal instincts and larger than life personality, she can steamroller over the opposition just as effectively.

As written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie), The Blind Side is more about Leigh Anne than Michael. Michael's a bit of a blank slate, and the movie suggests that he managed to survive a horrific childhood, and a drug addicted mother, by remaining a blank slate, and shutting out all the bad (and it was all bad) that happened around him. His past is revealed only in vague flashbacks, and a few visits back to the slums he grew up in. His personality is almost nonexistent -- he's shy and reticent, and despite his massive size, unimposing. He's a shrinking violet. Leigh Anne is a steel magnolia: loud, insistent, self-confident, and a woman who is used to getting her way, as her affably compliant husband Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) likes to remind everyone. She's got a couple of perfect kids to go along with her perfect house: teenage daughter Collins (Lily Collins), and son S.J. (Jae Head), a talkative, spunky little sidekick -- clearly his mother's son -- for Michael. 

The Tuohys are good Christians, but what they really worship is football, and The Blind Side is part sports movie, part inspirational slums-to-suburbs, foundling-finds-family story, with an emphasis on the latter. Neither aspect of the story is especially suspenseful or surprising -- there's a kind of inevitability written into Leigh Anne's personality. There's just no doubt that she's going to get her way, that she's going to mold Michael into a functioning, successful young man and a great football player, and whip a few conservative Southerners (among whom she counts herself) into shape while she's at it. A few other good Southern women help out: Michael's tutor (Kathy Bates), and a teacher (Kim Dickens) at the private Christian academy the Tuohy kids -- including Michael -- attend. They both see that Michael, despite his poor academic performance, is no dummy.

Bullock, with her teased blond tresses and twangy accent carries the movie on her shoulders. Her performance is lively and likable, but not especially complex -- The Blind Side doesn't dig very deep into its characters, nor tell us much about them that isn't apparent on the surface. They have big lives full of big emotions and transformational events, but their inner lives are more or less neglected. We're left to imagine what traumas and misfortunes led Michael to the sorry state he was in, and what prompted a big-hearted woman to take him home, set him on his feet, and give him wings. It's not deep, but The Blind Side is quite likable, and plucks all the right heartstrings -- it's warm and funny, and uplifts with all the subtlety of a linebacker.