Sandra Bullock is an interesting study.
If you have followed her career, you know that she became something of an instant star after portraying Annie Porter opposite Kenau “I-Can’t-Act” Reeves in 1994’s “Speed.” Her stock as an actress rose considerably after her fine portrayals of Angela Bennett in “The Net” and Ellen Roark in “A Time to Kill” in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
Then she made a lackluster sequel to “Speed” and began appearing in mindless romantic comedies like “Hope Floats” and the “Miss Congeniality” movies.
What is puzzling about her is why she insists on picking movies that don’t give her the chance to display her outstanding talent as a dramatic actress. Thus, it really was nice to see her in “The Blind Side,” a highly entertaining, feel-good, true-story film, is based upon the book titled “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
Bullock plays Leighanne Tuohy, whose two children (Jae Head and Lily Collins) attend a private religious school in Memphis, where a young giant named Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) has been admitted because of his potential as a football player. Everyone refers to the boy as Big Mike, and he is as quiet as he is big. He also is not a strong student and really seems rather lost at the school.
One night as Leighanne and her family are on their way home, she spots Big Mike walking in the rain, and tells her husband (Tim McGraw) to stop. She invites the student into the car, and the Tuohys take him home, where they offer him a dry place to sleep for the night.
A series of events ultimately leads to Big Mike’s becoming a member of the Tuohy family, and Leighanne makes it a point to monitor his progress both at school and on the football field. Under her tutelage, Michael (He told her he doesn’t like being called Big Mike.) blossoms into a rugged player on the field and a passable student in the classroom. He ultimately goes on to play football at the University of Mississippi, and in the 2009 NFL draft he became the first pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
“The Blind Side” is a perfect holiday movie because it is the story about human beings helping someone who is not so fortunate as they are. People who stay away from this film because they think it is just another sports movie are making a big mistake. Certainly football is a necessary part of it, but the movie addresses so much more than what transpires on the playing field. In the film’s production notes, Bullock spoke about this very thing.
“The beauty of the story is that you think it’s one thing and it turns out to be something else, and those are usually the best things in life. I thought the script was going to be about football until I read it and realized that it’s really about family.”
The main thing that makes the film work as well as it does is the nice chemistry between Aaron and Bullock. Although he hasn’t appeared in that many films, Aaron brings a charming diffidence to the character of Michael. His enormous size belies his innate gentleness, and his scenes with Bullock are outstanding, and one scene in which she delivers a pep talk to him on the practice field is one of the best segments in the movie.
As she looks up at him, Leighanne explains Michael’s part in the game in terms that he can understand when she says, “This team is your family, and you have to protect them. Tony is your quarterback. You protect his blind side. When you look at him think of me. How you have my back.”
Bullock, who already has earned a Golden Globe nomination as best actress for her terrific work in the film delivers one of the best performances in her career. It is really refreshing to see in a role that makes use of her talent instead of watching play a daffy woman in an inane romantic comedy. It’s obvious that she did her homework in mastering Legihanne’s southern accent, and she never falters throughout the film. She also has the chance to show that she is equally comfortable being serious or humorous because parts of the film are quite funny.
McGraw, Head, and Collins all turn in nice supporting performances, and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates is wonderful in her abbreviated role as Michael’s tutor.
The film also features a number of cameo appearances by such notable football coaches as Nick Saban (Alabama), Tommy Tubberville (formerly of Auburn), Phil Fulmer (formerly of Tennessee), and the incomparable Lou Holtz (formerly of South Carolina).
I highly recommend this film (Score it as an 8.) as excellent family entertainment. I also hope that making “The Blind Side” will let Bullock see her way to choosing quality films like this one in the future.