You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of memorable football movies there are out there in which there is actually some decent acting and a good plot. When you add the requirement of it being a true story, there are even less to choose from (e.g. ‘Radio’). It was then with considerable skepticism that I went to see ‘The Blind Side’, taking with me my best Missouri attitude (i.e.– ‘show me!’). Part of the skepticism was because this movie starred Sandra Bullock, not noted for her Oscar winning performances in the past. Let me just say— I didn’t see this coming, was blindsided by this movie. It is not only a thoroughly enjoyable movie based on a true story, Sandra Bullock actually deserves to be nominated in the best actress category for this film. Who knew she had it in her? Not me at least.
For the women in my blogosphere audience who are not big sports fans let me reassure you that this is not a long boring sports movie, long on brawn, short on brains, high on testosterone, low on content. Though the movie lasts two hours and six minutes, it fairly flew by. There was no filler in this film, nor any gratutitous sports scenes just for the sake of having sports scenes.
This is in fact basically a family oriented human interest movie that in the end involves football, not a football movie with an occasional nod in the direction of human interest. And the cast is great– Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy proves he can act, not just sing and look good, Sandra Bullock as Leighann Tuohy is one strong and determined Christian woman, Kathy Bates is excellent as the tutor of big Michael Ohor (played very winsomely by new comer Quinton Aaron), and I could go on. Shoot these actors even kind of look like the people they are playing. For example, consider the following actual picture of the Tuohy’s and Michael at an Ole Miss ball game….
The story is an all too familiar one. Poor kid from a broken family (in this case in Memphis) has nowhere to stay and is taken in by a wealthy family, doing their good turn and Christian duty. But that is only after Michael Oher is basically dropped off at the doorstep of Wingate Christian School (actually Briarcrest Christian School), and given a chance to prove himself in the classroom, not just on a sports field. Indeed, everything in this film hinges on his basically being able to get up to snuff in the classroom so he can be allowed to play sports. First it happened at Briarcrest Christian School which followed Michael’s blocks all the way to the state championship in their private school league. Standing 6’4″ and weighing 310 he paved the way for a lot of long runs. Then he moved on to Ole Miss, where he twice made the honor roll as well as becoming an All American in Oxford.
But the story does not end there, because Michael, just this year went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens after obtaining a degree in Criminal Justice from Mississippi. Since the motto of the police is ‘to protect and defend’, it is hardly a surprise that Michael, who is about the most protective person to ever appear on film (in this case protecting his quarterback, his running back, and his family) would choose to get such a degree.
Americans of course love a rags to riches story, love an underdog achieves success story, but this story is more than that. This is actually a story not just about how nice white Christian folks helped a poor black kid. It is actually about what those white folks learned from Michael about being truly human, truly Christian. The most telling line in the movie is when Leighann is having yet another salad lunch with her wealthy girfriends and they say “well I guess you’ve changed his life for the better” and she immediately retorts, “no, he’s changed mine.”
This PG-13 film (basically for one scene with a little language and sexual innuendo) is the feel good movie of this Thanksgiving season, and its true story may well move you to tears and it will certainly make you laugh. I never saw myself crying at a Sandra Bullock movie, but then as Forrest Gump once said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.
It’s a keeper, and one you can take the whole family to, not least because there are children in this movie who basically steal one scene after another, especially the scenes with Jae Head. John Hancock, the director is to be commended for not downplaying the Christian nature and motivations of Leighann and Sean without making the movie too preachy. It’s a movie Christians can take their non-Christian friends to, without making them uncomfortable. The movie is to a large extent based on the book of the same name which came out in 2006 to considerable acclaim, which might make an excellent stocking stuffer come Christmas time.
You leave this movie asking yourself the question— why can’t Hollywood make more films like this which don’t lose any of their punch or poignancy just because they leave the sex and violence and language largely out of this film? I don’t know why they can’t, but one thing is for sure— when you leave a movie asking that question, you know it was a good and enjoyable film.