Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Blind Side

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references
Profanity:Mild language
Nudity/Sex:Mild, non-explicit sexual situation, sexual references
Alcohol/Drugs:Character abuses drugs, social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Gun violence and some peril, car accident
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:November 20, 2009
DVD Release Date:March 23, 2010

“The Blind Side” is a movie about football that had its own broken field running challenge. It is the true story of Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher, a homeless black kid adopted by a wealthy white family. So, it could so easily have been syrupy, or condescending, or downright offensive. At worst, it could have been a cross between the Hallmark channel and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

There have been too many “magical Negro” characters in movies, the non-white character whose role in the story is to give some white people a spiritual or ennobling experience. And there have been too many of what my friend Tim Gordon calls “mighty whitey” movies, where some needy non-white person is helped by some saintly white person. And there have been way too many movies where someone says, with a catch in his or her throat, that “he helped me more than I could ever have helped him.” This movie risks failing in all three of these categories and somehow it manages to deftly come together to make the story genuinely touching. You may find yourself with a catch in your throat, not to mention a tear in your eye.

It helps that the story is true. The wealthy Touhey family did take in and then adopt a homeless black teenager whose life had been so chaotic that there was almost no record of his existence. He happened to go along with a friend who was applying to a private school on an athletic scholarship and was seen by the coach who recognized his ability. He is enormous and he is fast, both valuable in an offensive lineman. And this happened at just the time that the role of the offensive lineman was becoming one of the most critical positions on the team. Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock, in her Oscar-winning performance) explains at the beginning of the film, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, that New York Giants lineman Lawrence Taylor changed the game. He went after quarterbacks like the Washington Redskins’ Joe Theismann, who received a career-ending injury because Taylor came after him in his blind spot. Hence the increased focus on protecting the quarterback, and that is the job for which Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) seems to have been designed.

It isn’t just that his is very big and very fast. It is another quality, the one that was identified when he was given a battery of tests as the only stand-out ability in a long list of failures. Tests showed that he had an extraordinary level of protective instinct and experience showed that he had an extraordinary ability as well.

She was never tested, but Leigh Anne is probably off the charts for protective instinct as well. It is this quality they share that makes us believe in their connection.

And it is another of Leigh Anne’s qualities that keeps the story from getting too sugary. She is kind of obnoxious. Girl-next-door Sandra Bullock shows us Leigh Anne’s determination and passionate dedication to her family and her ideals and makes us understand that she has a bit of a sense of humor about herself. When she has to admit her husband was right about something, she also concedes that the words taste like vinegar. She has no problem telling pretty much everyone from her condescending friends to the high school coach what they should do. But it is her vinegary spirit that makes the situation and the movie work. She does not cry over Oher’s trials and she does not act like he is her St. Bernhard puppy. She is just someone who has a strong sense of justice fueled by her faith, a quality too rarely portrayed in the media. And she has that protective instinct. Oher is not the usual gentle giant, which helps as well. He has a sense of humor and self-respect that makes clear that he is a full partner in becoming a member of the family, giving as much as he gets.

So this movie is smarter than it had to be, which gives its emotional core even more of punch. You’ve seen the highlights in the trailer. But the quiet moments in between and lovely performances by Bullock, Aaron, and Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne’s husband make this one of the best family films of the year.



  • Your Name

    I was really surprised to find that on the same weekend as “new moon”, the movie was packed. It was a great film precisely because there was such an off handed way that everyone involved dealt with Michael. The boy saw a big guy that could make him the center of attention, the girl saw Michael as someone kind and good, and the parents ended up loving Michael because he really was extraordinary, having risen above the usual victim hood that many poor kids adopt.
    This is one movie I will probably get the DVD and watch over.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much for a very insightful comment! I was pleased to see that the movie did very well this weekend, especially considering the competition, and I hope audience members, like you, will want to see it more than once.

  • sonja

    I loved this movie and I’m going to tell everyone I know about it. I have lots and lots to say – but one of the things I love best right at this moment is that there were real Christians in it. Not wimpy, messed up Christians, but Christians walking out a Christian life. And that just made me happy to see on the big screen wrapped in a movie that everyone will love!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Sonja! I agree with you! It is a joy to see a Christian — or any person of faith — in media who lives by the values of her faith and is not portrayed as a hypocrite or bigot. One of the many pleasures of this wonderful film. Thanks so much for writing and blessings on you and your family.

  • http://heyxd.com keri

    Hello i want to no how this movie was… i want to see it with the girls but.. is it a good movie??? anyway have a good christmas!!!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Hi, Keri! That’s the question I try to answer in my review! Yes, I think it is a good movie, and Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.

  • Joe Weil

    I suggested to my wife and daughterto see this movie on Thanksgiving day instead of some gloom and doom or potty humor movie, and to my shock and dismay thay did. both said it was good, my wife though it was “really really good”. So that was nice to hear they enjoyed them selves while I slaved over a hot grill and stove.
    Not to worry, I was going to see it on Friday, but when I got to the theater the matinee was sold out. OK then this afternoon would be good, wrong again Kimo Sabi!! Sold out again, so now I’ll go to the 10:55 PM showing tonight. After the USC game, of course.
    I’ll tell you what I think after the show.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Joe! Can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

  • Tim

    I saw the movie and thought that it was excellent. I enjoyed the fact that it was based on a true story. It brought back to mind the story about Lou Gehrig starring Gary Cooper. I found this film to be compelling. There were moments of joy and tenderness. It was good to see that there were mistakes made on both sides, showing they weren’t perfect, but they found ways to work them out. In all, it was an excellent “feel good” film. The only problem I have with it being a family film is one reference to a strip club using a slang term and one mention of possible male sexual violence. Overall, I found it to be an excellent film and would highly recommend it.

  • Grok87

    I saw this movie this weekend. And really liked it. I agree with your comments Nell that the plot had the potential to go wrong and become syrupy but it never did.
    As a Northeastener, I also appreciated the insight into some of the cultural ecosystems of the south. The networks of private Christian schools. The intense loyalty to University Alma maters. It was interesting to see Tim McGraw act. I thought he was good but not great- i.e. he did a decent job but it was easy to peg him as not really being an actor. He probably came across as good as he did because he had Sandra Bullock to work with. She was fantastic. She did a great job with the role.
    I didn’t realize the book was written by Michael Lewis. I’ll have to read it now.
    cheers,
    grok

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Another exceptionally thoughtful comment, Grok, thanks! Though perhaps I think more highly of Tim McGraw as an actor than you do. Take a look at his performance in “Friday Night Lights.” I think he is terrific.

  • Lucacentric

    Michael Oher’s story reminds me of Susan Boyle’s. Do you remember her? She was the amazing singer who blew everyone away last year on “Britain’s Got Talent”.
    They both were misjudged for much of their lives based on appearances until given the chance to shine. They are also both people of great Christian faith.
    I just found out that the TV Guide Channel is having an exclusive special on her December 13. I found the link for it here: http://www.tvguide.com/special/susan-boyle/
    I was so inspired by “The Blind Side” and I hope to have a similarly uplifting experience watching Susan’s special.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Lucacentric! I have written about Susan Boyle and her inspiring story. I hope she is able to enjoy her success and fulfill her dream of singing before many audiences.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Tim!

  • Grok87

    Thanks Nell. I’ll check out Friday Night Lights. I had heard good things about it but never actually saw it.
    Grok

  • http://whatelsebuthome.com Evelyn

    This story is amazing and left me inspired. If you liked it too, you may also like the book, “What Else But Home.” It is a story about the author Michael Rosen and his struggles with and the positive forces of an “accidental family,” formed from informally adopting 5 older boys from the projects.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks Evelyn! Great recommendation.

  • Drew A

    Can someone please share how one gets tested on “protective instincts”? The reviewer even said this movie was “smarter than it had to be”, really? The premise in the beginning is that “more often than not, the second highest paid player is the left tackle”. Patently and demonstrably false, check any online salary database. Reading, writing, arithmetic….and protective instincts…rofl. Even if this weer a criteria, I’m curious as to how this would even be measured from a scan-tron.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Drew! From Forbes magazine: “Since it’s generally accepted that quarterback, left tackle (who blocks the quarterback’s blind side) and defensive end (the big pass rusher) are the premier positions in the game, managers feel pressured to draft them high in order to keep big salaries tied to those positions.”
    And there are various psychological and vocational tests that measure protective instincts, which can be a positive indicator for certain kinds of careers. You can read the Michael Lewis book the movie is based on for more information.

  • Floyd
  • shaneeq

    I loved it!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Me, too, shaneeq! Thanks!

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