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A Little Too Wholesome

Movie Title: The Blindside (2009)
Spoilers: No

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I feel stupid stating that America (and not just America) has come a long way in race relations. The majority has gone from unleashing packs of dogs and turning fire hoses on African-Americans to welcoming “them” in “our” schools and homes. And if The Blindside is to be imitated, non-blacks should have a production made of this progress.

The Blindside is the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless, African-American boy adopted by a well-off, white family who goes on to become a college football star, and from there, a pro NFL player. The film is based on the 2006 book by Michael Lewis titled: The Blindside: Evolution of a Game.

Once adopted, Oher (Quinton Aaron), whose mother was a drug addict and whose father was a victim of murder, has a whole new set of challenges in his new home. Among them is getting his grades up so that he can play college football. But he has the help of a loving, conservative Christian family at his side.

Moving and heartwarming, The Blindside is magnetically appealing at every point. You pay full attention because such innocent compassion is so seldom found on the big screen. The film can brag about its fine writing. It was the employment of white guilt that didn’t sit well with some.

There is such a thing as white guilt. It comes out in conversations when there is an argument about race. You might recognize it in the things people say like, “I’m not racist. I have [insert ethnicity: black] friends.” It has become a culturally ingrained reaction for great numbers of white families, in an almost paranoid attempt at getting across to the world: “I may be white, but I’m not racist. Look, I’ll prove it...”

The Blindside is a well-acted and wonderful family film, with wonderful characters that are tantalizingly likable. Bullock has finally stepped up to her potential and has dropped the quirky bimbo roles for something better. She plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher’s always-resolute, adoptive, firecracker of a mother. And though it wasn’t the intent, she looks hotter than ever, in a sophisticated and successful “southern bell” way.

Kathy Bates is “Miss Sue,” Michael’s tutor and a professing democrat (the Touhys seem to have been just tolerant enough to be willing to hire her in spite of that latter fact).

In made-for-TV-movie fashion, The Blindside is appropriate viewing for the whole family. Its message is as wholesome as a student bringing an apple for a teacher. In fact, it’s a bit too wholesome, which is one of several small but back-setting flaws.

Nearly everyone in The Blindside is portrayed as a single-dimensional set-up of a stereotypical character type. The Christians are staunch, white, church-going republicans who boast about being card-carrying NRA members and “packing” accordingly. Even the teachers are cookie cutter country bumpkins. The blacks are down-on-their-luck apartment-dwellers facing eviction, if not gang members or street thugs. The film would have been even better had the stereotypes been downplayed or else eliminated. But it's not like there's banjo music playing in the background or anything.

You are supposed to like them, everyone. You are obligated to like them. In fact, it’s hard not to like them. They are as undeviating and as direct as you would expect from a creation aimed at pleasing the most conservative of Bible-believing families or mainstream viewers.

My only other gripe with this excellent and lovably entertaining film: It’s an inadvertent step backwards for race relations, as though to say: “We’re southern and we’re Christian, and that means we help unprivileged blacks.” Why the need to broadcast the innate sense of charity that all rationally healthy and benevolent humans are capable of exhibiting?

(JH)

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Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG
Director: John Lee Hancock
Summary: The story of Michael Oher, an homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
Starring: Sandra Bullock “Leigh Anne Tuohy,” Tim McGraw “Sean Tuohy,” Quinton Aaron “Michael Oher,” Jae Head “S.J. Tuohy,” Lily Collins “Collins Tuohy,” Ray McKinnon “Coach Cotton,” Kim Dickens “Mrs. Boswell,” Adriane Lenox “Denise Oher,” Kathy Bates “Miss Sue”
Genre: Drama / Sports
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