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Filmmaker wisely lets ‘Blind Side’ tell itself

Fri., Nov. 20, 2009

Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock star in “The Blind Side.” Warner Bros. (Warner Bros.)
Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock star in “The Blind Side.” Warner Bros. (Warner Bros.)

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 (played by newcomer Quinton Aaron) 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.

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. If he could somehow develop his raw talent into practiced technique, he could win a college scholarship and, possibly, a professional football career.

His prospects looked dim until he was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock).

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.”

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?

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