Dec 10, 2009, 3:00 PM EDT
All right, simmer down … here’s your Jelisa Castrodale for the week. (I refer to her growing fan base as Castrophiles). The other day she finally attended The Blind Side, and since I paid for the ticket, she was required to do a report. Here it is.
By Jelisa Castrodale
Last weekend, the top of the box office wasn’t occupied by unwashed teen vampires or the last shards of John Travolta’s credibility. Instead, the $20M number one spot went to The Blind Side, a family movie wrapped up in the oversized football jersey and improbable true story of Michael Oher.
The flick is based on Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, but lops off the latter half of the title — and every other chapter in the paperback — to cover Oher’s transition from rags to Baltimore Raven. For a football movie, there’s very little, you know, football, since most of the screen time is spent on the parts of Oher’s life that don’t involve shoulder pads or sweat-wicking fabrics.
Despite having fewer on-field scenes than Air Bud: Golden Receiver, The Blind Side still works for hardcore sports fans; football serves as the motivating factor for almost every decision Oher and his adoptive family make. Also, College Gameday junkies will have the chance to lean across the armrest to point out that Tommy Tuberville doesn’t coach at Auburn anymore and that yes, Lou Holtz really does talk like that.
Both the book and the movie open with the last snap of former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann’s career, which proved to be the sound of his leg splintering beneath Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The footage from that game — shown from multiple angles — is still the second-most disturbing clip of 1985, right behind Cocoon‘s scene of a shirtless Wilford Brimley. A clipped voiceover explains how this play changed football and — here’s some foreshadowing for you — put a premium on left tackles, the players who protected the quarterback’s blind side.
This narration comes from the Chanel-stained mouth of Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), a sharp-tongued Tennessee woman whose exterior is as coolly frosted as her blown-out blonde hair. When she and her husband Sean (a role shared by country singer Tim McGraw and his overworked hairpiece) are leaving their son’s Thanksgiving pageant, they pass one of his schoolmates, “Big Mike” Oher, lumbering through the late-evening sleet wearing short sleeves and cutoffs. Rather than lock their BMW doors, Leigh Anne basically commands Big Mike to stay the night with them.
Then he stays for Thanksgiving dinner.
Then, as the music swells and his gaze falls to a Norman Rockwell book, you realize he’s going to stay forever.
Then you start worrying that this movie could give you diabetes.
Until Oher climbed into the Tuohy’s X5, he’d been homeless, with a crack addict mother and thirteen siblings who were scattered throughout the worst parts of Memphis. He was also black. By contrast, the Tuohys couldn’t have been whiter if they sung Carpenters songs and ate mayonnaise straight out of the jar; an entire family so unwittingly wholesome and unashamedly righteous that you half-expect Tim Tebow to fall out of their kitchen cabinets.
Sean Tuohy, a former Ole Miss basketball star and current Memphis Grizzlies broadcaster, made his millions in part by acquiring eighty-five Taco Bell franchises. Big Mike Oher couldn’t have been more out of place in their well-appointed living room — with its $10,000 sofa and various tapestries — than a plate of authentic Mexican food.
What the family and Michael, as he now chooses to be called, have in common is football. Kind of. The only reason he even got his size-23 foot into the halls of his uber-Christian, uber-pricey private school is because the opportunistic football coach assumed that a boy the size of a strip mall would be a natural-born ballplayer.
That didn’t stop the Tuohys from encouraging Michael, with SJ (Jae Head, a child actor with the scene-gnawing abilities of mid-80s Jack Nicholson and the teeth of a British orphan) leading him through a five-minute training montage, a key component of any self-respecting sports flick.
Despite a refusal, or an inability, to speak more than ten words at a time, Michael quickly became part of the family: Leigh Anne buys him a new wardrobe (although you’d think a successful interior designer would tell the 350-pound boy to avoid horizontal stripes), joins the family with for their Christmas card picture and goofily sings “Bust a Move” with SJ for the most awkward interracial duet this side of “Ebony & Ivory”.
On the field, Oher was still a raw player, although one with endless potential and an ability to learn. That combination, along with his freakish size, was enough for countless college coaches to start wearing the brass off the Tuohy’s door knocker.
This, of course, meant cameos from Tennessee’s (now fired) Phillip Fullmer, Arkansas’ (now fired) Houston Nutt and Ole Miss’ (now fired) Ed Orgeron. It’s well worth two hours in an uncomfortable AMC seat to hear an ultra-smarmy Nick Saban utter the line “I love what you’ve done with the Windsor valances.” Based on the sleaze factor and empty promises he brought to his brief appearance, I assume he’d been told that actor Quinton Aaron was a potential Alabama recruit.
With the interest of presumably every Division I program — and a good forty minutes before the end credits — the focus turns to Michael’s dismal GPA and dwindling shot at a scholarship. I won’t reveal whether or not he succeeded, but his appearance on Baltimore’s M&T Bank Field every Sunday afternoon this season is kind of a spoiler.
Until last night, the only other time I could say I’d read the book and seen the movie was The Cat in the Hat. (What? Dr. Seuss is effing NUANCED, man.) It’s equally hard to compare these two works, since they serve different purposes entirely. Lewis’ book focuses on the changes in the NFL that gave Michael Oher the opportunity to thrive. The film is more interested in the Tennessee family that did exactly the same thing.
Jelisa Castrodale is a writer and comedian who has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. She chronicles her failures at The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy, covers music for London’s BitchBuzz and twitters while she waits at stoplights. Castrodale was featured in the book Twitter Wit and was named one of Mashable’s 10 Funniest Twitterers.
Also by Jelisa Castrodale …
- So long folks, it’s time for me to take off 18
- Man wins full marathon while pushing his daughter in a baby stroller (video) 14
- Lock and load, it’s youth baseball fundraising time: league raffling off AR-15 rifle (video) 8
- Sim Bhullar is a large basketball player, and I mean it. Anybody want a peanut? 0
- What’s with kids and all these death-defying stunts? 674
- Nothing to see here…just a 70-yard field goal by a high-schooler (video) 3
- None found