A remarkable story gets bags of sugar and saccharin dumped all over it in The Blind Side. Numerous sports-film clichés show up in this one, and you can see every turn coming.
That's too bad, because it's directed by John Lee Hancock, who did a fine job of signing the Declaration of Independence ... excuse me, directing The Alamo and The Rookie, a fine sports movie. The movie is based on the true story of Baltimore Ravens football player Michael Oher. Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) had a tough time growing up: His mom was addicted to crack; his dad was murdered; he bounced around from home to home and school to school.
This is a man who, as a high school student, managed to get a 2.52 GPA, play various sports to the point of excellence, and get scholarship offers to some of the country's finest schools. I'm thinking Oher must've had a spark of intelligence and some charisma to beat the odds in the way he did.
Yet The Blind Side depicts him as a big, silent oaf who can't take care of himself and must be rescued by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy (Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw). They see him eating leftover popcorn at the gym and walking around in the freezing rain, so they take him home and eventually adopt him.
It's true that the family did a very grand thing by giving Oher a home and making it possible for him to reach the NFL, but this film belittles Oher's accomplishments while glorifying the Tuohys in a one-dimensional way. While I can accept Leigh Anne's endless generosity toward Oher, the idea that she acted as a sort of second coach during his high school football games is preposterous. The second she interfered with the coach's game plan, she presumably would've been escorted off the field.
Other moments come off as insulting to Oher. There was actually a very serious investigation by the NCAA into whether the Tuohys' generosity was just a setup to get Oher into their favorite college, the University of Mississippi. (The investigation turned up nothing in the end.)
The Tuohys got Oher a tutor (depicted as Miss Sue and played by Kathy Bates), who, in the film, is depicted as a huge University of Mississippi fan. In the film's most embarrassing scene, Miss Sue tells the "highly impressionable" Oher that a rival university he's considering stores body parts under the football field. She also informs him that said body parts come to life during games and will reach up and grab him. This is, of course, punctuated by Oher's frightened face. We then see him choose Ole Miss as his college.
I'm quite sure that a lot of factors went into his decision, and that zombies attacking him during football games never came up. There's no chance that a high school senior could be scared by such a bullshit story. It's this moment, and many others, that result in Oher being portrayed as a simpleton. History shows us that he's no such thing.
Bullock has fun moments as Leigh Anne Tuohy, but her part isn't all that demanding. I've seen her portrayal here compared to that of Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, and that's an insult to Roberts. Bullock's work here doesn't go much beyond a single layer. The same can be said for McGraw, who is required to make a lot of "Oh, brother!" eyes in response to the Bullock character's rambunctious behavior.
The Blind Side made me curious about Oher's story, and I'm hoping somebody does a real documentary on him and the Tuohys one of these days. As for the big-movie treatment of this great story, it's regrettably insulting and disposable.