A poor, struggling black teen-ager in Memphis is taken in by an affluent white family, who patiently teach him enough football and survival skills that he is ultimately drafted by an NFL team. It admittedly sounds like one of those hokey, inspired-by-a-true-story heart-swellers that Hollywood regularly churns out, except it's not quite. John Lee Hancock's film is the story of Baltimore Raven Michael Oher. But it's fairly low-key, opting to depict more day-to-day life than big dramatic moments. Its primary relationship is that of Oher (Quinton Aaron) and his take-charge, go-getter new mom, Leigh Anne Touhy (portrayed with brio by Sandra Bullock).
While I'm happy to be spared those over-the-top big games and artificially pumped-up nail-biting moments of decision, Blind Side could have used a little more tension and depth. It flirts with meatier fare -- race, class, religion, the focus on athletics over books, and what it might mean to a rudderless youth like Oher that his new family holds all his cards. Tellingly, we rarely hear from the quiet Oher, while the Touhys talk a lot.
Blind Side punts -- this is, after all, a story with a happy ending. (Sit through the credits for photos and film of the actual people.) Rather than dig into the contradictions and messiness that defines even successful lives, Blind Side finds its salvation in a lot of football-inspired pep talks. It's all very rah-rah, but something of a disservice to Oher's journey. Starts Fri., Nov. 20. (AH) [2 out of 4 stars]