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Movie Review: The Blind Side

Chesapeake Family provides family-friendly movie reviews, concentrating on appropriateness for children and content that parents might find objectionable, including sex, violence and language. Today’s review is The Blind Side.

Didn’t see it coming

Cliché-but-true story saved by impressive acting

by Kristen Page-Kirby.

I didn’t see the first three or so minutes of The Blind Side. Not because I was late, but because the opening of the film involves a frame-by-frame analysis of Joe Theisman’s 1985 career-ending injury, which I remember seeing live, so no, thanks, I’ll just stare at my notebook for a few minutes, thanks.

Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock, who combines likeability and sheer, um, witchiness, in an impressive performance) is a wealthy interior designer in Memphis, married to fast food king Sean (Tim McGraw). She’s “in a prayer group with the DA and a member of the NRA,” a steel magnolia with a  BMW. Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) lives on the other side of Memphis, the one that only appears in Leigh Anne’s life via the evening news and on page B3 of the Commercial Appeal. When “Big Mike” begins attending the exclusive Christian school where Leigh Anne’s kids go, you see just how his old schools have failed him—his IQ measures 80 and his GPA is a 0.6. The teachers at the new school are sure he can’t learn and he’s not doing his homework.

Of course, he studies while waiting for his one extra shirt to dry at the Laundromat, and he doesn’t have a desk on which to do the homework they’re assigning. But they’re mostly just pretty sure he’s stupid.

When Leigh Anne sees Big Mike walking alone on the street the night before Thanksgiving, she offers him a place to stay for the night. One night turns into many, and eventually Michael—who finally admits he hates being called “Big Mike”—becomes a part of the family.

Oh, and it turns out that Michael can play some football.

Here’s the thing: Even though the story is based on the life of the Baltimore Ravens left tackle, it often feels too unbelieveable, and I was fully prepared to dismiss this film as a lucky intersection of truth and story. But the solid script, really spot-on performances (particularly McGraw and Bullock) and director John Lee Hancock (who did both The Alamo and The Rookie, so he knows how to tell true stories) keep the film from spiraling into a treacle-saturated mess. The football footage isn’t as great as the standard set by Friday Night Lights (both the film and the TV show), but it seemed to keep the interest of the teenage boys in the showing I attended.

The film is PG-13, but I think kids as young as 10 would enjoy it (although watch out for the previews—we’ll discuss that in a second). There is some fully-clothed but in-bed marital smooching; the a-word crops up once (and Leigh Anne immediately reprimands her husband for saying it) and the word “titty” shows up twice, once in the “bar” context and once in instructions for how to properly block in football. The b-word shows up a few times. Unkind things are said about Michael’s race, including some slurs, but the n-word is only used by other Black characters (which…makes it OK? I’ll leave that for you to decide). There is one scene near the end of the movie that shows drinking, including underage drinking, drug use, and violence. However, it’s very clear in the movie that any of those behaviors are unacceptable, so I think it would be all right for a younger kid. There’s nothing glamorous in the film about any of it.

Now, onto the previews: The previews I saw at a public screening were for Valentine’s Day, Up in the Air, Avatar and Invinctus. If you are going to take younger kids to the movie, I’d try to make it so they missed the first two previews if you can. Valentine’s Day had some talk about sex (“I used to be a gymnast!” proudly declares Anne Hathaway) and Up in the Air features a shirtless, obviously post-coital George Clooney (which, for me, simply equals “yay!”). If you’re sensitive about that kind of thing, you might want to be on guard.

 

Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family. She last reviewed Twilight: New Moon.

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