FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
The Blind Side (2009) is one of those heartstrings-pulling, feel-good, underdog sports movies that we get every few years from Hollywood. It tries, like so many films before it, to mimic the success of Hoosiers (1987) and Rudy (1993). And I’m surprised to say that this one works! Or at least better than most. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. While it’s not quite at the level that Hoosiers and Rudy share, it’s the closest I’ve seen a sports movie get since them. As one of the ten films nominated in 2009 for the Best Picture Oscar, The Blind Side is really the story of the American Dream that we all idealize and strive for. It’s the story of a talented young black athlete named Michael Oher who has challenges in school and at home. But what he needs is someone to help him dig himself out of the deep hole of problems he’s been thrown into by his parents and society. Sandra Bullock, as Leigh Anne Tuohy, is the “lifeguard” that recognizes Michael’s needs and she comes to his rescue, offering him a nurturing and safe place to live and a better high school to attend. She sees the love inside Michael and his unique talents for protecting those that he loves. He just needs to learn how to combine those talents with his natural athletic abilities so that he can perform at a high level on the football field, where he is pushed to perform due to his physical size.
I can see why Sandra Bullock won her Best Actress Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in this film. She is at the top of her game here like I haven’t seen her since Speed (1994) and A Time To Kill (1996). She’s been taking a lot of romantic comedies over the past decade, and her acting just wasn’t going anywhere in those roles, even though her films had marginal financial success and she gained vast name recognition. It’s with The Blind Side that she has taken the talent we’ve seen in her supporting roles and brought it to a leading role. After seeing The Blind Side this Fall, I’m not sure I agree with Bullock winning her Oscar for this role, but once again, I think the Academy was really awarding her for her body of work, which has culminated so far with The Blind Side.
The Blind Side is another great looking film with beautiful cinematography and good production design. I wouldn’t say that Director of Photography Alar Kivilo broke any new ground photographically, but his work here is nicely lit and saturated to give the movie the warmth that its viewers certainly feel. I think one thing missing from elevating this great visual package is a more moving musical score. I can’t remember that music elevated anything for me during this film. It wasn’t a bad score, but it was merely serviceable and didn’t elevate the emotional punch that this film strives for.
All in all, The Blind Side is a great family film that has something for everyone. I especially love young actor Jae Head as S.J., the fun and precocious son of Sandra Bullock’s character. His relationship with Michael as a brother is both endearing and hilarious. Some of the best scenes in the film are between S.J. and Michael. And many of the family scenes where the entire family is at home eating, watching TV, or just goofing off, reminded me of similar times in my own life and family. The Blind Side is the rare film that appeals to a broad audience, but doesn’t sacrifice too much of the artistry and creativity in the craft of film either. It finds a nice balance that wins in many areas.