Warner Bros. // 2009 // 128 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 22nd, 2010
Based on the extraordinary true story.
"If you so much as set foot downtown you will be sorry. I'm in a prayer group with the D.A., I'm a member of the NRA and I'm always packing."
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron, Be Kind Rewind) is an African-American teenager living in Memphis, Tennessee. He's never known his father, his mother is a crack addict, and he doesn't have any real friends. He struggles in school, just barely making passing grades. He doesn't have a place he can really call home. Life is hard and his demeanor is a perpetual blend of sadness and frustration.
One day, Michael is spotted by a woman named Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock, All About Steve). Leigh Anne is the matriarch of a very well-to-do southern family. Her husband is Sean (Tim McGraw, Flicka), who owns hundreds of fast food restaurants throughout the southeast. Leigh Anne sees Michael walking in the cold in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, so she decides to help him out. The Tuohy family takes Michael in, gives him clothes, gives him a place to sleep, and gives him friendship.
And that's only the beginning of the story, an inspiring tale that eventually leads to Michael Oher becoming one of the most sought-after high school football players in the nation.
Of the ten 2009 films that received "Best Picture" Oscar nominations, The Blind Side was the only one that I didn't see in theatres. For one thing, the trailers made it look an awful lot like a patronizing load of rubbish. For another thing, it was the sort of movie that was constantly being recommended to me by the sort of people whose opinions on movies I don't exactly regard as trustworth. My grandparents who never go to movies because there's, "so much trash out there these days," insisted that it was wonderful. Friends who stared at me with blank confusion when I tried to tell them about A Serious Man or In the Loop would often follow with, "Um, have you seen The Blind Side?" That guy at work whose favorite movie of the past decade was The Da Vinci Code: "You really ought to check out The Blind Side."
Despite the best efforts of lots of well-meaning folks, I never got around to actually watching the movie, even when it started to get nominated for every other award under the sun. It was a Sandra Bullock movie, how good could it be? I grumbled as Bullock accepted her Oscar, musing that she surely couldn't have been as good as Cary Mulligan in An Education. But now, at long last, I've seen the film and can speak with authority on the matter. So, is The Blind Side an Oscar-worthy flick? No way. However, it is a pretty decent formula film, a rousing inspirational drama that gets the job done quite well. And I have to confess, Sandra Bullock is pretty darn good in it, too.
The film is directed by John Lee Hancock, who previously directed the inspirational sports drama The Rookie back in 2002. That should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect, as The Blind Side offers a similarly appealing rags-to-riches saga that focuses more on characters and relationships than it does on athletics (always a good sign, as the best sports movies tend to lay the actual sports on pretty sparingly). The film is more or less cobbled together from elements of other sports movies: the nobody who worked hard and became a somebody (The Rookie, Rudy), the athlete/team that had to overcome racism and prejudice (Pride, Glory Road, Remember the Titans), and so on...but to its credit, the film doesn't climax with a "big game" and it centers around a relationship that feels very fresh.
That relationship would be the one between Michael Oher and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Though the advertisements for the film seemed to imply that this was a film about a noble white saint helping some struggling black teenager (I knew I wasn't the only one rolling my eyes), the relationship is more complex than that. This is a story about two distinct characters who enter each others' very different worlds and enable each other to grow in different ways as a result. Michael finds the support, encouragement, and resources he needs to succeed, which is something he's never had before. Leigh Anne finds an opportunity to grow as a person, a chance to break out of her insulted upper-class shell and really get to know someone from the other universe just around the corner.
Bullock's performance is particularly strong, as she takes a character that could have easily been a one-note stereotype and really infuses that character with a lot of dimension. It's the most immersive performance I've seen from Bullock, an actress who never struck me before as being someone with a tremendous amount of range. Aaron's performance is less flashy but still effective, an appropriately understated turn that never feels artificial. Special mention should also be made of engaging supporting turns by Kathy Bates (Misery) as a left-leaning tutor and by Ray McKinnon (Deadwood) as the coach of Michael's football team. Tim McGraw also brings his usual down-to-earth warmth to the proceedings...he's not a great actor but he's a sincere one, which goes a long way.
The Blind Side makes its way to Blu-ray in fine fashion, boasting a strong hi-def transfer and a solid audio track. The images are crisp and vibrant throughout, with rich blacks and excellent shading during darker scenes. Background detail is exceptional, which is particularly advantageous during the busy football scenes. Facial detail also seems particularly strong, though flesh tones just occasionally seem a little off. As for audio, the moments of sports action are pretty hard-hitting (as are a couple of intense non-sports scenes), but elsewhere the track is low-key and pleasant. Carter Burwell's score (a curiously generic effort from a generally distinct composer) comes through with lots of strength and is very well-distributed.
Supplements aren't extremely generous but are pretty enjoyable nonetheless. "The Real Michael Oher" (10 minutes) gives us a chance to hear from the real-life subject of the film, while "Sideline Conversations" (33 minutes) provides interviews with Bullock, the real Leigh Anne Tuohy, John Lee Hancock, and author Michael Lewis. "The Story of Big Quinton" (14 minutes) focuses on the casting of Quinton Aaron and "Acting Coaches" (5 minutes) is a throwaway look at the real-life college coaches that appear in the film. Finally, you get a few additional scenes and a DVD/Digital Copy of the film.
It's a good film, but not an Oscar-worthy one by any means. The fact that the film itself earned a best picture nomination is nothing short of absurd.
Thanks to an excellent Bullock performance and a solid formula screenplay, The Blind Side works. Worth a rental, at least.
Review content copyright © 2010 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 128 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy