Perennially perky Sandra Bullock steps out of the rom-com ghetto toward respectability, despite her appearances this year in the hideously lame All About Steve and The Proposal.
Bullock is sensational as Leanne Tuohy, a spitfire Memphis matriarch who runs her well-heeled family with queen grace and drill-sergeant precision.
But Tuohy's a benevolent ruler; when she discovers one of her kid's junior high classmates is homeless, she takes him in, ignoring the country club gossips. The taciturn boy looks more like a man; hulking African-American Michael "Big Mike" Oher towers over his peers, but his 80 I.Q. score, and a lifetime of neglect, finds him trailing far behind in school. With an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, Big Mike slept on couches and in the streets before the Tuohy's took him in, turned his grades around and helped guide him to gridiron greatness.
Six-foot-ten Quinton Aaron does his best as a big, wounded animal with a sweet heart. Hick-crooner Tim McGraw is surprisingly sure-footed as the fast-food franchisee turned sports-dad and Kathy Bates is solid as Big Mike's caring tutor.
The movie's cozy as fuzzy slippers, but the script's sharp enough to cut through sentimental haze. Though racial issues sometimes get sidelined for family dynamics, director John Lee Hancock keeps the story centered. Credit Bullock for driving the action — she's a tough broad, and believable when staring down both major college coaches and thugs from the old hood.
The Blind Side is so steeped in the techniques and tropes of the cheesy sports genre that you must remind yourself the film's based in fact and not just Hollywood dreaming. The authentic Michael Oher really did make it from the projects to the NFL, a Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.