- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

“The Blind Side” is a feel-good sports drama about the intersection of race and athletics, with solid if unremarkable performances and a screenplay that strains just a little too hard for social relevance. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, however, a word of warning for the squeamish: “The Blind Side” opens with perhaps the most horrific sports injury ever caught on film.

Washington Redskins fans still remember the moment with startling clarity, as evidenced by the gasps that went up as the film began at the Mazza Gallerie earlier this week. “The Blind Side” starts with a shot of quarterback Joe Theismann behind the center and the New York Giants defense lined up on the opposite side of the field, led by All-Pro Lawrence Taylor.

You may have seen the damage Taylor did to Theismann four seconds after the ball was hiked on that fateful play — indeed, the image of Theismann’s lower leg snapping like a twig may have been seared into your memory — but odds are you’ve never seen it blown up on the big screen. It’s as cringe-inducing as anything we’ve seen in the “Saw” series.

Reliving that moment is a key portion of Michael Lewis’ book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” because it helps explain why the left tackle on the offensive line has become the second-most-important position on a football team. LT may have been an unstoppable force of nature, but a decent left tackle at least could have saved Theismann’s career that chilly November evening.

Mr. Lewis’ book is about more than the O-line. The second, equally compelling portion of “The Blind Side” revolves around the intersection of race, poverty, sports and education.

The new movie from writer-director John Lee Hancock largely skips over that first section, allowing the vivid, big-screen destruction of Theismann’s career to stand on its own as a testament to the newfound importance of the left tackle.

Instead, Mr. Hancock focuses on the story of Michael Oher, the left tackle and future first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens whom Mr. Lewis’ book follows. Separated from his drug-addicted mother as a child and essentially homeless by the time he was a teenager, Mr. Oher was taken in by the Tuohy family and raised as one of their own.

Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) is a strong-willed Southern matriarch, most content when bossing others. She and her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw) take Big Mike (Quinton Aaron) home one night when it becomes apparent he has nowhere else to stay.

In the Tuohy household, Mike finds a safe place far away from the ghetto of his youth and a family that pushes him to succeed in school and at sports. He becomes better adjusted socially and more confident in himself, escaping the problems that plague his neighborhood.

This happy resolution is mildly unsatisfying, insofar as it suggests that only a nation of Tuohys could save the inner city — a notion that’s at best unrealistic and at worst remarkably patronizing. One gets the sense that Mr. Hancock had more to say but wasn’t quite sure how to say it.

★★½
TITLE: “The Blind Side”
RATING: PG-13 (brief violence, drug and sexual references)
CREDITS: Written and directed by John Lee Hancock
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
WEB SITE: https://www.theblindsidemovie.com/
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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