The redemption-minded sports flick "The Blind Side" serves its inspiration straight-up with no twist.
Writer-director John Lee Hancock wisely lets the true story of Michael Oher — the African-American teen who found a home and, eventually, football stardom, after being adopted by a wealthy Memphis family — speak for itself. That direct focus delivers a feel-good crowd-pleaser, but it also drains the film of the kind of subtle nuances that might have separated it from other Hollywood Hallmark-like efforts, including Hancock's own "The Rookie."
As chronicled in "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis' finely reported book, "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game," Oher spent his first 16 years living in a shell. When he improbably landed at Memphis' Briarcrest Christian School, he had an IQ of 80 and an inability to cope with a mere conversation. His prospects looked dim until he was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
For everything he lacked in life (family, food, a place to sleep), Oher had been blessed with the rare blend of size, strength and quickness sought by football coaches for the valuable left tackle position. That spot on the offensive line protects a right-handed quarterback from hits he can't see coming. If Oher could somehow develop his raw talent into practiced technique, he could win a college scholarship and, possibly, a professional football career.
"The Blind Side" dutifully chronicles the transformation of Oher (played by newcomer Quinton Aaron with the proper less-is-more approach) from blank slate to a fully formed young man, emphasizing Leigh Ann (Sandra Bullock) at the expense of Sean (Tim McGraw). (The book notes Sean's equally valuable contributions.) Bullock brings her trademarked spunkiness to the mother hen role, delivering an iron-willed woman who looks past appearances to do the right thing.
"You are changing that boy's life," notes one of Leigh Anne's condescending ladies-who-lunch pals.
"No," Leigh Anne replies. "He's changing mine."
That solemn rebuke captures the spirit of the movie in a nutshell, though, strangely, we never see any actual change in Bullock's indomitable Memphis mama from the beginning of the movie to the end. Husband Sean, consigned to couch duty for most of the film (when he isn't commenting on how plucky his wife is), tells Oher that Leigh Ann is an "onion," but Hancock doesn't go beyond peeling the first layer.
The movie does address allegations that the Tuohys took an interest in Oher so they could steer the prodigy to Ole Miss, their beloved alma mater. That inclusion seems designed more to give the leisurely film some much-needed tension than actually probe the issue, since the obstacles facing Oher rarely feel threatening in the film.
As was the case with "The Rookie," Hancock aims to present a reality that comforts and inspires, populated by people actively living their beliefs. Why did the Tuohys take in Oher? Without definitively answering that question, the film poses one of its own: Why don't more people follow their lead?
"The Blind Side," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references. Running time: 128 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
The redemption-minded sports flick "The Blind Side" serves its inspiration straight-up with no twist.
- At the Movies
- Mel Gibson returns in 'Edge of Darkness' It's been seven years since his last film, but Mel Gibson is still playing martyr. One might fairly call Gibson "The Crusader," and not just because of his widely known religious views or because he directed "The Passion of the Christ."
- 'Saint John of Las Vegas' no divine comedy The deadpan comedy "Saint John of Las Vegas" opens with Steve Buscemi walking into a Vegas convenience store, plopping down an envelope full of cash and asking for a thousand lottery tickets. "Why not?" he asks with a mixture of defiance and despair.
- FILM REVIEW: 'Tooth Fairy' full of smiles, clichés Just weeks after something dubbed a "squeakquel," we have a movie advertised with the tagline: "You can't handle the tooth." One quakes for the marketing that awaits us for "Marmaduke."
- Vampire thriller 'Daybreakers' is DOA The only lesson to take away from Ethan Hawke's horror-action tale "Daybreakers" is that vampires cannot run the world's affairs any better than we tasty humans can.
- Effects wow but story limps in 'Avatar' When a film brashly asserts that it will change moviemaking forever, one feels the urge to either take its "king of the world" arrogance down a notch or hail it as the masterpiece it claims to be.
- 'Ninja Assassin' sports a dull blade When considering the meager merits of the bone-snapping, blood-splattered "Ninja Assassin," it's best to remember the words of John Goodman's PC-challenged character in "The Big Lebowski": "The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy ... adversary."
- ‘Princess and the Frog’ is a hearty hop The spirit of animation maestro Walt Disney lives on. The studio has gone back to its roots with a fresh, funny retelling of a classic fairy tale in “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation after a five-year hiatus.
- Wildness intact, ‘Bad Lieutenant’ returns It’s post-Katrina New Orleans and there are snakes in the water — none bigger than Terence McDonagh, an exceptionally corrupt detective, who slinks through town snorting coke, smoking heroin, harassing women and brandishing a .44 Magnum stuffed in the front of his pants.
‘Planet 51’ proves unable to support intelligent life
It’s been a big year for animation, with a great variety of styles represented by “Up,” “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and the upcoming “The Princess and the Frog.”
- 'The Blind Side' focuses on the feel-good The redemption-minded sports flick "The Blind Side" serves its inspiration straight-up with no twist. Writer-director John Lee Hancock wisely lets the true story of Michael Oher — the African-American teen who found a home and, eventually, football stardom, after being adopted by a wealthy Memphis family — speak for itself.
- Army drama ‘Messenger’ delivers fitfully It’s an unenviable task, making films about the war on terror for audiences that don’t want to sit through dramatizations of the same bad news they get for real out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
- ‘Gentlemen Broncos’ a saddle-sore mess “Gentlemen Broncos” is a comedy so weird, so off, so simply wrong that even freakish hero Napoleon Dynamite would have a hard time lending it his catch word, “Sweet.”
- Gorgeous ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ roars to the screen “Where the Wild Things Are,” the book, is just 339 words long. But in turning it into “Where the Wild Things Are,” the movie, director Spike Jonze has expanded the basic story with a breathtaking visual scheme and stirring emotional impact.
- Sheen shines in the gritty ‘Damned United’ You don’t have to be a soccer expert, or even know all that much about the sport, to get sucked into the competing personalities and personal dramas of “The Damned United.
- Showmanship Moore’s top commodity in ‘Capitalism’ How do you make a movie about the country’s current economic crisis and actually get people to see it? Two obstacles most obviously arise: illustrating such a potentially dry subject in a compelling way, and persuading audiences to pay money for information they can get at home — and feel depressed about — for free.
- ‘Reasonable Doubt’ like ’80s TV movie Beyond its generic, forgettable title, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” feels like some throwaway 1980s TV movie, with its implausible premise, dizzying twists, cheesy montages and melodramatic score.
- '9' is breathtakingly original Despite their roughhewn appearance, the resourceful rag dolls in "9'' obviously were crafted with great love and care, both by the scientist who made them in the film and the mastermind behind them in real life, director Shane Acker.
- 'Extract' tastes too bland Ten years ago, Mike Judge satirized the absurdities of the workplace experience from the perspective of put-upon employees with "Office Space." It didn't do much when it came out but, as we all know by now, it became a cult favorite on cable and home video, to the point where it changed the way you looked at the common stapler.
- Big Fan' a vivid portrait of sports geekdom Jim Rome urges his listeners (or "clones," as he so lovingly calls them) to have solid takes, to bring it, when they dial into his sports talk radio show.
- Quentin Tarantino's new movie has its glorious moments If only Quentin Tarantino the director weren't so completely in love with Quentin Tarantino the writer, "Inglourious Basterds" might have been a great movie rather than just a good movie with moments of greatness.
- No go: Paramount won't show critics 'G.I. Joe' It's the biggest movie of the summer that practically no one has seen. "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" opens Friday, but Paramount Pictures isn't screening the blockbuster for critics beforehand. Only a select few writers from blogs and movie Web sites have seen it for review — such as Harry Knowles, the self-professed "Head Geek" from Ain't It Cool News — and their opinions have been mostly positive.
- 'People' is both funny, frustrating If only Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen hadn't gotten in the car. If only they hadn't left Los Angeles, where everything in "Funny People" was going so well, and driven north to Marin County, where everything falls apart. Judd Apatow would have had his most mature, accomplished film to date.
- 'G-Force' topples 'Harry Potter' at box office An elite squad of guinea pigs has worked its own brand of magic at the box office, taking the No. 1 spot from boy wizard Harry Potter.
- 'The Ugly Truth,' battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy, that isn't pretty t the end of the drearily formulaic romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth," as our two leads are finally admitting they've fallen for each other (no spoilers here, folks), Katherine Heigl's character asks Gerard Butler's why he's in love with her. Basically, he says he has no idea, only he phrases it with a word we can't reprint here. Our sentiments exactly.
- ‘Shrink’ showcases Kevin Spacey’s strengths Say what you will about some of Kevin Spacey’s more questionable choices over the past decade, movies like “Pay It Forward,” “K-PAX,” “The Life of David Gale” and his labor-of-love Bobby Darin biopic, “Beyond the Sea.” When he’s on — when he has strong dialogue to work with and solid actors to play off of — he’s got a presence and a command that are tough to beat.
- New 'Harry Potter' goes to head of class Harry Potter has kept his fans waiting for two years, the longest school break they have had to endure for a new movie adventure about the teen wizard. It's been worth the wait.
- 'Bruno' quickly goes out of style The problem with "Bruno" is Bruno himself. Compared to Borat — and it's impossible to avoid the comparison — there simply isn't enough to the character to build an entire feature-length film around him.
- Review: 'Ice Age' is 'yawn of the dinosaurs' tale There's more action and cuddly creatures for kids to love in "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" than in the animated franchise's first two installments. For their parents, it's more of the same, a "Yawn of the Dinosaurs" adventure with some new faces and places but the same central characters rehashing the themes of the first two movies.
- 'Public Enemies' dazzles the eye but drags With "Public Enemies," all the pieces would seem to be in place for an epic gangster drama: director Michael Mann, who has an affinity for complicated criminals; stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, who are famous for immersing themselves in their roles; and a thrilling true story of brazen bank robbers on the run.
- 'Moon' a haunting sci-fi tale "Moon" does something extraordinary: It seems familiar and derivative, yet upends your expectations about science fiction and surprises you over and over. Melancholy and mesmerizing, equal parts mystery and character drama, it keeps you guessing until the end.
- More At the Movies Headlines