One of my favorite things about sports movies, more than the sports themselves, is the inspiration factor, and rarely has a sports movie told a true story that is more inspiring than The Blind Side. Being from Maryland, I was interested in seeing the story of Baltimore Ravens Offensive Tackle Michael Oher adapted to the big screen. The movie is uplifting without being syrupy or cliche, and Sandra Bullock delivers one of the best performances of her career.
Quinton Aaron plays Michael Oher, known as “Big Mike,” a hulk of a teenager whom we first meet when he is enrolled in Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian School by a foster parent who notices his football potential. Aaron effectively conveys both Big Mike’s reserve and reticence and his gentle inner spirit. Big Mike is the silent type, yet we soon learn of the woundedness he hides inside. The son of a cocaine addicted mother (Adriane Lenox), he has been in and out of foster homes and often with no home at all. It is when he is wandering alone in the rain after school one day that he encounters Leigh Ann Toughy (Bullock) and her family, the family that will change his life forever.
Oher spends the night with the Touhgys, and when Leigh Ann realizes he has no place to go, she takes him in as a son. Noting his “protective instincts,” the Toughys encourage him to bring them to the football field, protecting the quarterback’s “blind side,” and Oher’s gifts take off. More importantly, he begins to know the love of a family who are on the surface quite different from him.
Some of the most powerful moments in the movie are delivered by Bullock, whose feisty character challenges the genteel and conservative world in which she lives. In one, over lunch at a posh uptown restaurant, Leigh Ann stands up to the wealthy friends who cannot imagine the potential she sees in a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. In another, when young men from Big Mike’s old neighborhood threaten him, she lets them know that she is “a member of the NRA, and…always packing.” We get it. Leigh Ann is one woman you don’t want to mess with, but its because her protective instincts are as strong as Oher’s.
Tim McGraw is better than expected as Leigh Ann’s husband Sean; the country star has solid if not outstanding acting chops that can also be seen in the film Flicka. Jae Head adds the adorableness factor and a bit of humor as the young S.J. Collins; he is at his most hilarious when interacting with Big Mike’s college recruiters.
A feel-good true story, The Blind Side has something for everyone, from sports lovers to those who just love to have their heartstrings tugged.