Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.. Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher and Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in Alcon Entertainment's drama "The Blind Side."
The Blind Side (PG)
Two and a half stars out of 4
Mere months after the release of the worst movie of her mercurial career ("All About Steve"), Sandra Bullock returns in "The Blind Side," a gooey sports uplift drama that includes each and every cliche of this tired and predictable genre.
If you go to theaters or watch football on TV with any regularity, you've probably seen the trailer for the film which does in 30 seconds what takes the movie two hours to do not nearly as well. Virtually every major plot point (including the ending) is given away in the trailer so if you go and aren't surprised by anything you see, that's the reason.
Bullock trades in her fire-engine red plastic boots from "All About Steve" for sensible housewife pumps and replaces a bad dye job for a less-brassy blonde version in order to play Memphis socialite Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Married to a fast-food magnate (Tim McGraw), Leigh Anne has far too much free time on her hands and is growing tired of $18 salad lunches with her snooty Southern belle friends. Without much reason or forethought she decides to pick up a teen boy wandering the nighttime streets and gives him a warm bed -- make that a couch -- for the night.
The boy is Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and is slightly better off than the title character in the current "Precious." Overweight, functionally illiterate and non-communicative, Michael is one of a dozen children of a junkie mother who has never met his father and without Leigh Anne's determined intervention would have probably become just another statistic.
In no time flat Michael becomes a full-fledged Tuohy family member and with a new "Big & Tall" wardrobe begins attending the local (all white) private school. It takes a while but Michael eventually lifts his just-north-of-zero GPA up to 2.5 and becomes eligible to do what Leigh Anne believes is his destiny: play football.
Though not always overt and certainly not in a malicious manner, writer/director John Lee Hancock's cream-puff film suggests that any disadvantaged black child can make it in life if they have the emotional support and deep-pocket reserves of a headstrong, socially insulated white woman. A comment is made at some point by one of Leigh Anne's fellow diners that Michael has become "her project" designed to assuage some of her "Southern guilt." After watching the movie and seeing how it all plays out, this observation has some degree of accuracy.
While he certainly looks right for the part, Aaron's low-key, emotionally detached approach to the character makes it hard for the audience to get worked up for or about him. The lead character in Hancock's other sports drama ("The Rookie") at least had a palpable "fire in the belly" drive that slightly made up for its equally anemic screenplay.
Bullock on the other hand goes too far the other way. Her Leigh Anne is brimming with sass, steely grit and self-righteousness all delivered with sharp, pointed body movements and a forced Tennessee accent.
The latest TV trailer contains a quote stating that Bullock is all but a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. In this thus-far weak year for lead female performances that statement is not completely without merit. She has just as much of a chance of getting a nomination as the picture itself. (Warner Brothers)