It's not that the trailer for The Blind Side isn't compelling; the problem is that it combines Sandra Bullock's twangiest, most-over-the top lines with a heartrending song, which makes it seem schlocky. That's exactly what I expected from the movie, but I have to admit that I was wrong — to my surprise, I found it to be a sentimental gem that's actually quite restrained.The Blind Side is the true story (based on Michael Lewis's book) of NFL player Michael Oher, who grew up in Memphis's projects with his drug-addicted mother and landed in and out of foster homes. He ended up in a fancy private school and in the home of a wealthy family, the Touhys, led by tough-talking Leigh Anne (Bullock). The weaving of Michael's newfound life in the movie is effective, with sweet bits of humor and just enough emotion.
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The movie is full of many surprises: first, it looks like it's going to be mainly about football, but it's not all sports. There is proper attention given to Michael's life before he's taken in and the development of the relationships between the Touhy family members and Michael.
Another nice thing is how smoothly Bullock slides into her role. It's not just her wardrobe and hair that transforms her into the high-maintenance Southern matriarch; her manner as the tough mom who's not completely comfortable showing emotion is very natural — not what I'd expect from the laid-back actress.
Quinton Aaron is also impressive as a sad-eyed orphan turned well-adjusted student and son over the course of the movie. It's not an incredibly complex performance, but his teddy bear presence is irresistible. The supporting players are equally as enjoyable: Tim McGraw, whom I didn't expect much from, is charming, while the Touhy children win you over with their affection for their new brother. The late addition of Kathy Bates (whose role is basically an extended cameo) is hardly needed to bolster the movie, but she adds a nice touch as well.
At two hours and six minutes, the movie is a little too long; director John Lee Hancock seemed intent on fitting in nearly every detail of Michael's journey. Then again, at the end you're rewarded with the payoff: footage and photos of the real-life Touhys and Michael. It's an emotionally satisfying ending to a movie that makes no apologies for being so uplifting.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.