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Movie Review: The Blind Side

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The Blind Side is the “feel good” movie of the year, to a fault. It’s a movie where all of the characters are likable and everyone treats everyone as he or she would like to be treated. And it is a movie where everything turns out well in the end. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I love happy endings. But, there can be too much of a good thing.

The movie tells the true story of Michael ‘Big Mike’ Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless and traumatized teenager who was taken in by a caring woman, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), and her well-to-do, picture perfect family. Thanks to their support, he graduated from high school, became an All American football player, and ultimately a first round NFL draft pick.

It’s a heartwarming story. ‘Big Mike,’ as a kid, would’ve been named “most likely to be found dead from a drug deal gone bad by age 20.” It’s truly triumphant seeing his smiling face as he was drafted in 2009 by the Baltimore Ravens. So, why did the movie feel so lengthy to me, about three hours it seemed? (To be fair, my wife loved it and cried several times.)

Movies – heck, stories – need heroes who change against the odds. It’s all about conflict, conflict, conflict. A hero must pay for every accomplishment with a pound of flesh and must, in some sense, even die before finally winning in the end.  How compelling is it when the hero gets served everything on fine china complete with silver salad fork and soup spoon?

And yet that’s exactly what we get in The Blind Side. Big Mike is given a place to sleep. He’s given a pickup truck. When it comes time for college, every school in North America (it seems) lines up to give him a full-ride scholarship. Give. Give. Give. All this lovable lug had to do was wake up each morning and hold out his hand.

Or, actually, he didn’t even have to hold out his hand. Leigh Anne and others tell him time and again, and I paraphrase, “Give me your hand. Here you go.” The movie’s idea of conflict is when Oher asks Leigh Anne to please not call him “Big Mike” anymore. She says, “Okay. I’ll call you Michael.” Yes, a whole scene is spent on that exchange.

Now, maybe I was being unfair when I called Michael a “lovable lug,” but that was all he became for me after a while. I mean, how long can one watch a guy, even a really lovable guy, lumber along with the same pleasant smile and Gomer Pyle expression before one begins to suspect that there’s nothing else waiting to be discovered? Answer: not nearly as long as this movie thinks.

The movie does open with a great sequence. Using footage from a Monday Night Football game where Lawrence Taylor sacked Joe Theisman, snapping his leg like a twig, ending his career; the movie offers a wonderfully concise bit of NFL trivia. Who is the highest paid player on a team? Why, the quarterback of course. What I didn’t know was how highly paid left tackles are (or right tackles for lefty quarterbacks).

Think of those big outer linemen as a team’s insurance policy, protecting their most valuable asset from being hit from his blind side. I’m sure there will be many quarterbacks in the years to come who won’t much care about dramatic conflict. They’ll just be glad that Big Mike is covering their backs.

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About Todd Ford

  • I think that plain-ole straight forward movie making would have been in order. They did not do anything fancy with technology here but that is not what was missing. You’re right what missing is people slapping each other around like they do in real life LOL.

  • You know, I was in the mood for a feel good movie and that’s what I got! Not too much sadness or violence, some hurdles (loss of family & home, educational & academic issues) to deal with but overall … I wanted to walk away with a good feeling. That’s what I got. Thanks for the review.

  • Deano

    I can’t comment on the movie but the book is built around the economics and culture of American football and, as you noted, how critically important the left tackle becomes in the face of Lawrence Taylor. It redefined the “economy” of the offensive line.

    While it would be nice to think Michael Oher was picked up and helped to a better life by the purest of fate, it was the fact that he had that rare combination of speed and size that made him have the potential to fill the strategic role of a left tackle.

    Sadly if he was short, fat or slow, he would probably still be another homeless, illiterate kid on the side of the road.