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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009 01:56 am

Blind Side uses old playbook to jerk tears

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Without question, Michael Oher’s story is remarkable. The young man was the son of a crack addict and homeless as he entered high school. Fate showed him a kind hand as he was accepted into Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian School. There he came to the attention of an athletic booster named Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took Oher into her home, where she and her husband, Sean, provided for him over the next three years. With their help he was able to raise his grade point average and excel at football, so much so that he was offered and accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi. Today, he’s a starting offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

With it’s too-good-to-be-true inspirational bent, Oher’s story is tailor-made for the Hollywood schmaltz machine. Director John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side arrives with two goals — to shamelessly move us and snag Sandra Bullock an Academy Award. A film of this sort requires a deft touch, which eludes Hancock and his cast who ladle on the sentiment with the subtlety of a tabloid headline. Unlike the similarly themed Antwone Fisher, which simply recounts its subject’s story and lets its inherent drama play out, the tone the director generates here is forced and a bit too cute for how dire Oher’s situation was.

One step away from caricature, Sandra Bullock’s turn as Leigh Anne Tuohy is obviously played to garner Oscar consideration. She not only rends the scenery but eats it as well. It’s a self-serving performance that undercuts the potential power of the story, as the spotlight shifts to Bullock – not her character – and tragically away from Oher whenever they share a scene, which is often.

Generating bathos rather than true sentiment, The Blind Side will surely be a success for those who are easily moved. However, those who require their tears to be earned should hold out for a more honest effort from a more capable filmmaker.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.
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