Is every extraordinary true story worth adapting to film? It seems as though we’ve heard everything before, especially when it comes to down-on-their-luck athletes defying the odds. Well, Michael Oher’s story is pretty much just that, so the success of The Blind Side will rest in your hands. Shun it and you’ll be wishing there was a defensive end ready to take advantage of your blind side and put you out of your misery. But put your skepticism aside, embrace The Blind Side and you’ll be in for a feel-good time.
The Blind Side is based on the true story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher. The film opens with footage of the monumental moment when Lawrence Taylor sacked quarterback Joe Theismann, ending Theismann’s career but turning the offensive tackle into one of the highest paying positions in football. If you’re not a football fan, have no fear; The Blind Side is about Michael following in Taylor’s footsteps and becoming a professional football player, but more so, about how his adoption into the Tuohy family got him there.
Michael (Quinton Aaron), a.k.a. Big Mike, is practically homeless when he meets Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock). She finds him walking the streets aimlessly in the rain, her benevolent tendencies kick right in and she invites him into her home. Think she’s crazy? Well, for a brief moment she does too, taking into account that she just let a complete stranger, a black teenager nonetheless (a major no-no in her well-off Memphis neighborhood), into her home with her expensive belongings, her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), and her two young children, Collins and S.J. (Lily Collins and Jae Head). Turns out Michael’s appearance belies his gentle personality, and he soon becomes part of the Tuohy family.
At first, it’s hard not to dismiss The Blind Side as just the story of a wealthy white woman helping a poor black kid that you swear you’ve seen before. On top of that, the film isn’t easy to adjust to. The pace is rather slow, and although Bullock’s Southern accent is decent, it’s not what you expect to hear coming from her mouth. Really, the entire story seems to be more of a caricature than an accurate portrayal of a true tale. Michael might as well have been a giant teddy bear. No, seriously. He doesn’t say much most of the movie, and when he does, it’s as contrived as a talking bear that says ‘I love you’ when his stomach is pressed.
But as unnatural as it seems, the more time you spend with The Blind Side, the more engaging it becomes. In fact, before you know it, you’ll be taking the social lessons become completely engrossed in Michael’s transformation. Though Leigh Ann is a key component of that transformation, Bullock also gives Aaron his time to shine. There’s a perfect balance of screen time among all the characters, and adorable S.J. in particular, who provides just about all of the film’s comic relief and has just as much, if not more, chemistry with Aaron as Bullock.
Just as Sean is the token ‘yes-man’ husband rolling with Leigh Anne’s big ideas, McGraw is often in Bullock’s shadow, but he also effectively softens her character. Initially Leigh Anne comes across as a no-B.S. mother with a strict agenda, but just as Michael goes through a complete renovation, so does she. By the end of the film Leigh Anne maintains the stick-to-itiveness she utilizes to change Michael’s life and keep her own family together, but sheds her tough exterior and absorbs what their journey has revealed to her about herself. This is what makes the story unique. It’s not just about a rich woman being charitable to a poor boy or the rise of an unlikely athlete; it’s about the transformation of a family. She subtly but forcefully drives The Blind Side and infuses it with a depth and charm, making it a truly inspiring film.
If you give The Blind Side a chance, the payoff is monumental. I dare you to sit through the entire film and not get chills when the screen fades to black and runs through a montage of the real Michael Oher and the real Tuohy family. The film is generally enjoyable, but it isn’t until the credits roll that you’ll realize what a major sentimental impact it has on you. Do yourself a favor, don’t get too picky, take the film for what it is – an inspirational sports movie – and you’ll win big.