Movie News & Reviews

'The Blind Side' took me by surprise

Watching movies might sound like a sweet gig, but it isn't all fun and games.

The long lunches with Keira Knightley are nice, but I didn'tappreciate Nicholas Cage holding my cat Huggins for ransom after Icame down on National Treasure 2. Likewise, if Scorsese callsme at 10 a.m. for advice one more time, I am going to just lose it. Someof us work for a living, guy. We need our sleep. For Ms. Knightley'ssake, if nothing else.

But there are upsides, too. I generally assume a bad-looking traileris going to make for a bad movie. Simplistic, but it makes a lot ofsense -- like Huggins always says, if you can't find 90 seconds ofgood material for an ad, how are they going to fill 90 minutes?Sometimes, though, a movie will catch you completely and pleasantlyoff guard, first by not sucking, and then by actually being prettygood. Sandra Bullock's already done this once this year with TheProposal; after being surprised again by The Blind Side, Ithink I'm looking forward to her next role.

-- Local show times, theaters.

Quinton Aaron may have been accepted into a private high school, buthe's still homeless and alone until he catches the eye of Bullock, astrong-willed, wealthy, yet conscientious woman who takes Aaron intoher family's home.

Intending to just give him a place to stay the night, she soon giveshim a new family. Aaron's had a tough life and isn't the easiest kidto get to know, but given a chance, he may have a big future as afootball star.

The Blind Side has enough cliches to choke a cliche-hatinghorse: a pretty, rich white woman taking in a poor but gentle blackkid; a skeptical, judgmental community that thinks living rough iseating beef from Corpus Christi instead of Kobe; a spunky little kidwho says things so darned the ninth circle of Heck will be ringingwith his quotes for years. By all rights, I should have been barfinginto my seat-neighbor's popcorn tub.

Instead, I was cutting a hole in its side and draining its butterykernels into my feedbag, which is cunningly disguised as my otherneighbor's purse. Because writer/director John Lee Hancock has theuniversal cure for obnoxious cliches: restraint.

Rather than bludgeoning us to death with what an ass-kicker Bullock isor how Aaron's massive size conceals an equally huge heart of gold,Hancock mostly just lets them do their thing. The Blind Side isbased on a true story, and Hancock realizes he doesn't need toromanticize it with big dramatic speeches or exaggerated conflictsthat could easily have made his film feel exactly like every otherfeel-good movie out there.

In skillfully getting out of his own way, the characters and theiremotions arrive on their own terms. Same deal with its humor. NormallyI hate kids -- yeah, kid actors too, now that you mention it -- but to mygreat confusion, I found myself laughing at some of the spunkymoppet's lines instead of wanting to roll him up in a carpet and whackhim against a telephone pole.

It could be too sweet for some. I wouldn't know, because my heart iscold and dense as a frozen Butterball. But The Blind Side nevertries to cheat its way there, never tries to manipulate you. Funny andjust a little thoughtful, too? Color me surprised.

Grade: B+

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