Football fans know that “the blind side” is the quarterback’s vulnerable spot when he’s scouring the field for a pass. Moviegoers attuned to the metaphorical nature of film titles can guess, however, that the phrase applies to more than just grid-irony in John Lee Hancock’s based-on-a-true-story parable. Society’s blind side, you see, is where impoverished, hulking African-American athlete “Big Mike” Oher (Aaron) lived until plucky Southern mother Leigh Anne Touhy (Bullock) took him in. (Tough-talking mamas from Tennessee: What can’t they fix?) As for the saving glories of the game, you’ve first got to suffer through an hour of Big Mike’s bleached-blond guardian angel dropping saintly Hallmark platitudes. “You’ve changed his life,” one character tells Leigh Anne. “No,” she says, complete with elongated dramatic pause. “He’s changed mine.” Garrggh! Just bring on the sports-movie clichés already.
It’s tempting to think that this vanilla take on a stock inspirational tale exists solely to make an expressionistic emotional steamroller like Precious seem even more graceful than it is. What’s worse than its triteness, however, is the way the movie regards this at-risk youth as nothing other than a vehicle for making suburban moms feel better about themselves during the postscreening drive to Costco. “Is this some sort of white-guilt thing?” a ready-made villain asks rhetorically. Actually, no; it’s just blinkered middle-class pandering at its most shameless.