Sandra Bullock plays tough, loving Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side." (20 Century Fox)
"The Blind Side" is named for the way a defensive lineman sneaks up on a quarterback, but there's nothing sneaky about the film's intentions.
It's a cute, touchy-feely crowd pleaser that wants nothing more than to wrap audiences in a warm holiday embrace. In a sense, it achieves that goal, but it is overly sentimental in a Lifetime movie kind-of-way.
Perhaps that's because Michael Oher's life story seems like it was meant to be made into a three-hanky weepie.
Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, is a gentle giant growing up homeless on the rough side of Memphis, Tenn. A black kid, he's adopted by white couple Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Sean (Tim McGraw), and comes to live with their well-to-do family. He bonds with their precocious "cute-kid" son, S.J. (the unbelievably annoying Jae Head) and eventually finds his place on the football field.
The movie is really Bullock's, and she shines as a tough talkin', take-no-guff Southern Belle with a heart as gooey as apple pie. Bullock treats the film like her own personal "Erin Brokovich," though the script doesn't have the complexity of the Julia Roberts vehicle, nor is director John Lee Hancock (who helmed the Dennis Quaid vehicle "The Rookie") working at the same level as Steven Soderbergh.
The movie plays out simplistically and predictably, with Oher slowly coming out of his shell on the football field, academically (he's helped along by a tutor played by Kathy Bates) and in his personal life. A controversy with the NCAA over the school he chooses seems cooked up for some fourth-quarter dramatics, though guys dragged to the film will get a kick out of seeing a host of college football coaches playing themselves.
Quibbles aside, "The Blind Side" hits its intended marks. Audiences already know what's coming (spoiler alert: Oher is a right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens), but that doesn't make the payoff any less sweet.