Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
|Featuring:||Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Tuohy), Tim McGraw (Sean Tuohy), Kathy Bates (Miss Sue), Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher), Jae Head (S.J. Tuohy), Lily Collins (Collins Tuohy), Ray McKinnon (Coach Burt Cotton), Kim Dickens (Mrs. Boswell), Adriane Lenox (Denise Oher), Catherine Dyer (Mrs. Smith), Andy Stahl (Principal Sandstrom), Tom Nowicki (Literature Teacher), Libby Whittemore (Sarcastic Teacher), Brian Hollan (Jay Collins), Melody Weintraub (History Teacher), Sharon Morris (Investigator Granger), See all »|
|Director:||John Lee Hancock
“The Rookie,” “The Alamo”
|Producer:||Alcon Entertainment, Zucker/Netter Productions, Timothy M. Bourne, Yolanda T. Cochran, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Gil Netter, Molly Smith, Erwin Stoff|
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“Blind-sided” might well have described me this past June, when I slipped into a theater to catch Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal”—something I should never have done without having read some reviews on Christian Spotlight in advance. Like many “believers,” I was offended by several things in the film, not the least of which was the gratuitous nude scene that Sandra agreed to do for director, Anne Fletcher. Call me naïve, but it just didn’t fit with the girl-next-door image Miss Bullock had been known for in previous romantic comedies. That being said, I entered the theater today to see her newest film, “The Blind Side,” with my guard up.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to keep it up for long. It was clear within about 30 minutes that this was going to be a very different kind of film. That’s not to say that this is a family movie by any means. It earned the PG-13 rating it received, and, from a Christian perspective, there were a couple of difficult scenes laced with drugs, violence, and sexual innuendo to be endured during the film. Nonetheless, the director was well able to communicate the importance of family, and “doing good”—“Because it’s the right thing to do,” as Bullock’s character announced early on in the film. In addition to directing this film, John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie,” “The Alamo”) also wrote the screenplay as an adaption of Michael Lewis’s book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
The genre is a familiar one: a sports-oriented spectacular that fills the screen, plays on the heart, and is often based on a true story—“Remember the Titans” and “Cool Runnings” come to mind. The good news for many potential viewers of “The Blind Side,” is that it’s about football, and I’m not just talking any football. I mean southern college football, which is a world unto itself. Fans of college football will love the appearances of coaches like Phil Fulmer, Tommy Tuberville, Houston Nutt, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban who play themselves in the film—all basically chomping at the bit to get the main character, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) to accept a scholarship with their school. But for those who aren’t even armchair quarterbacks, and really don’t know the difference between a field goal and a touchdown, you won’t feel left out. The movie isn’t really about football. It’s about choices. Often those choices are difficult, and they present themselves at the most unlikely times, hence “The Blind Side,” theme.
Don’t get me wrong, for the superficial viewers, there’s plenty of football, tackles, slow motion replays and an enthusiasm for the game throughout the film, and they won’t be disappointed. But let’s face it, if the only conflict in a film (or in life) is learning how to overcome your opponent on a football field while becoming a top offensive left tackle, then you don’t have much of a story, now, do you. Hancock takes us on a journey into the lives of a well-to-do, upper middle class white family (who loves football—nearly to the point of idolatry) and exposes us to situations that they are faced with as a Michael Oher emerges on the stage of their seemingly perfect life.
At the helm of the family is Sean Tuohy, Taco Bell owner and Tennessee businessman, portrayed by Tim McGraw, who seemed to adapt nicely into his role as husband and father. But it was Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) who was the tough, charismatic, and feisty southern belle who lit up the screen, and pretty much ruled the roost as the matriarch—pretending to acquiesce to her husband when necessary. On a surface level, her sassy, strong performance satisfies the audience, but her character runs deeper, and it shows.
That leads to the next level of viewer—one that looks for the subplots. I have already heard that some critics are talking about “white guilt” and how the movie seemed to exaggerate on that theme, detracting from the overall storyline. (I disagree with that characterization. I don’t think it was about white guilt at all. They missed the point.) Some liked the emphasis on education and its importance in maintaining good standing in both high school and college sports. But the more powerful insights for this level of viewer will be developed from watching Michael grow as a young African-American teen—one that was swooped up out of a life of homelessness and misery into a world he knew nothing about, and then be challenged to achieve his full potential.
This is done in with a superb performance by Jae Head, who plays SJ (Sean Jr.) Tuohy, and creates an inspiring, fun-loving, color-blind brother that the audience falls in love with in every scene. In addition, Quinton Aaron, newcomer to the big screen, seemed to find his niche and communicated a more than believable Michael Oher. Other supporting roles by the Tuohy sister Collins (Lily Collins), the high school coach (Ray McKinnon), as well as his tutor from Ole’ Miss (Kathy Bates), also helped make the film gel as a whole.
This leads to my final comments for the believer. Woven throughout the film is an ongoing sense of “thanksgiving”—one that we as believers should always have running in the background on our spiritual hard drives (1 Thes. 5:15). There were a few really great moments in the film when Leigh Anne truly took stock about how much God had blessed her and her family, and she communicated those moments with just a look or a touch, subtly yet powerfully. But the amazing part was that she didn’t really see it, until she had stepped out of her comfort zone and acted as the Good Samaritan did in the biblical parable of the same in Luke 10. And Jesus asked “who was the righteous one?” inferring the Good Samaritan. And the man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” The tipping point for me (in terms of deciding whether or not this film was worth the price of admission) came when Leigh Anne (Bullock) met with Michael Oher’s mother in the film to ask for permission to do something (won’t spoil), and showing mercy just like Jesus commanded in that parable. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. That’s the kind of moment you look for in every film.
Those positives aside, there were a few spots that could have been edited out, and it wouldn’t have made the film any less powerful or believable. The use of the words “Mother of God” as a response from the coach (sure to offend some Catholics), the arbitrary use of the words: “ass” (1) “frickin’, (2) “fat a_s” (1)—although they built into the script Leigh Anne saying, “We don’t use that word in this house,” bit_h (2) and “dam_” (1 time). In addition, Leigh Anne said a couple of things that seemed out of character for her role—like the “b” word and “I’m packing’” along with, “Michael, if you get any young woman on this campus pregnant, I’m gonna come down here and cut your pen_s off!” And finally, when she made the comment about Nick Saban, “I find him extremely attractive,” and did so right in front of her husband. It may have happened in real life, but I didn’t buy it, and it still played poorly on screen. The other sexual innuendos and drug scenes were short and important for the storyline, but may be objectionable for some viewers. And finally, the length of the film was a bit much, although, I so appreciate the work of artists—that I wouldn’t have known what to cut either.
With those negatives out of the way I’d like to end on a more positive note. For the mature Christian, you can’t watch the film without being challenged as to whether or not you are really “walking the walk.” And even after you “do what is right,” you need to check the motives of your heart, just like Leigh Anne and Sean did in the film. Not wanting to reveal the dénouement, I won’t say more than that. But what I will say is that Christians will be known for what they do, and how they love one another—far more than for what they say. The Tuohy’s actions were not fiction, and their story will be told around the world, and let the praise go to God. I caught a recent clip of Sandra Bullock sharing about how she’d finally seen someone in her life (speaking of getting to know Leigh Anne) that really lived what she believed and didn’t just preach about it. This ordinary event had an extraordinary outcome, simply because one person made a “choice” to do the right thing in the “valley of decision.” There is always someone hanging by the sidelines saying things like, “why can’t something like that ever happen to me?” Leigh Anne Tuohy has an answer for that:
“I am telling you there are Michael Ohers everywhere—wonderful kids who need a home, who want a family. It doesn’t take much searching out, because they are right under your nose. And they don’t need to be brilliant at football. They don’t need to be someone who excels at anything other than loving you and wanting love in return.”
Do you need to see this movie to get these insights? Probably not. Should you? That will have to be your decision. But I will say this, if I had to spend time with my teens in a movie theater over the holidays, it would most certainly be watching this film instead of one about ungodly attractions between vampires and humans. Besides, not since the movie “Crash,” has Sandra Bullock demonstrated this kind of artistic talent on screen. I’m hearing the Oscar buzz already. For the rest of you, pop your popcorn and wait for the DVD. But for all us, this line from the film applies no matter what we do: “Life—It’s about to be defined by what you cannot see.” That is “the Blind Side.”
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.