Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Lily Collins, Jae Head, Ray McKinnon
Written by: John Lee Hancock
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references
Running Time: 128
Date: 11/17/2009

The Blind Side (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

On the Right Tackle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 2002, screenwriter John Lee Hancock (A Perfect World, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) directed a G-rated baseball movie, produced at Disney and based on a true story: The Rookie. It sounded like a pile of guck, and I nearly skipped it, but it turned out to be a very graceful, emotionally vivid film that eventually became my all-time favorite baseball movie.

Now Hancock is back with another gucky-looking movie, also based on a true story and with an abysmal trailer, and once again, he has turned in a surprisingly graceful movie. This one veers a bit closer to Capra territory, but its sure, honest touch carries it effortlessly into the end zone. It tells the story of Michael Oher, who went on play right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Here Big Mike (Quinton Aaron) is homeless, with a junkie mom and one shirt and pair of shorts to his name. Because of his size, he is accepted into a prestigious Memphis high school (with the hope that, eventually he will play football).

There, he is befriended by the outgoing smallfry S.J. Tuohy (Jae Head). S.J.'s mom Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) notices that Michael isn't dressed for winter and appears to have nowhere to stay, so she takes him home. He is given new clothes, a tutor and love and acceptance until he is able to play (he must get his grades up first).

If the movie has a problem -- besides its length -- it's that Michael is such a cipher, and he's very nearly a feel-good prop until a few scenes toward the movie's end that explain a bit about his behavior. Indeed, this is clearly Bullock's show, and she plays it to the hilt, making all the male characters snap to attention while wearing big sunglasses and tight dresses.

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