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THE BLIND SIDE“The Blind Side” is Sandra Bullock’s third movie this year, following “The Proposal,” a fun rom com that became her biggest hit to date and “All About Steve,” a critical flop that nonetheless showed she can be charming despite a terrible script. This time around she brings a different set of acting chops to play Leigh Anne Tuohy, a big-hearted but tough-as-nails Memphis mom.

Based on a true story, “The Blind Side” centers on teenager Michael “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron), an inner city teen on his way to becoming a statistic. He’s been tossed around from foster home to foster home, forgotten about and neglected. After earning admission to a Christian private school based on his athletic ability, he still feels lost, a lone African-American in a sea of white faces. It isn’t until he is spotted by a guardian angel in the form of Leigh Anne Tuohy that his life takes a dramatic left turn. After a chance meeting she realizes that he has no where to live and invites him to her family’s home for the night. One night turns into a lifetime, as Michael becomes part of the family.

“The Blind Side” is a hokey movie. Most of the characters are stereotypes and the dramatic arc is so simple a five year old could see how this story is going to end up, but despite its Hallmark feel it’s also a crowd pleasing four Kleenex tear-jerker. It’s a mix-and-match assortment of themes and styles—there’s the fish-out-of-water story, the inspirational sports tale, a family drama and a study of race and class in America. Phew. There’s a lot going on but Bullock and newcomer Quinton Aaron are the glue that hold it all together.

Bullock has transformed herself here. The cute and cuddly edge of her rom coms is gone, replaced with a mane of blonde hair and a take no prisoners attitude. Even her voice has a harder edge to it than usual. It’s the kind of performance she’s been hinting at ever since her dramatic turn in “Crash” and one that could earn her awards in the coming months.

As Big Mike Quinton Aaron not only brings an imposing physicality to the role but also a tender side. He’s a gentle giant with a warm smile who gets the audience on side with him from the get go. The whole story hinges on whether or not viewers care about Big Mike and will want to go on his life journey. Aaron wins us over early on and holds our attention in a quiet, understated performance.

“The Blind Side” isn’t a great movie, there’s too much emotional manipulation and huge problems seem to get solved a little too easily for it to be 100 percent believable, but it is an entertaining movie anchored by two very good, but very different actors.

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