(Rated PG-13 for some drug & sexual references & a scene of violence): By now you know that this story is based on the true (or relatively so) story of rags to riches by an all-American offensive left tackle, Michael Oher - written & directed by John Lee Hancock, whose other feel-good flick based on football characters ("The Rookie") suggests a feel-good outlook by the filmmaker. And, as mounted here, that's not at all bad.
Two characters stand out: "Big Mike," (newcomer Ouinton Aaron) a kid with plenty of strikes against him, including the fact that he's huge, fat, slovenly, has an IQ of 80, can't converse, comes from a broken home, and more. The other is wealthy Leigh Anne Tuohy (a blonde Sandra Bullock), a feisty, wealthy woman from the other side of the Memphis tracks, who seems prone to taking in "stray dogs," and who shares such gifts with an understanding husband Sean (Tim McGraw) & two children - especially their outgoing son, SJ (Jae Head).
Most of the good lines, and there are many, you've seen in previews, but all the dialog is generally a delight, with a minimum of clumsy, slangy, profane improvisation - and the entire cast bites into them & spits them out with an enthusiasm that becomes infectious. Kudos go to Ms. Bullock, who wears this spunky role with glee, and even though there's plenty more to make the 126-minutes fly by (including a nicely underplayed part by Aaron), this is her film; she lives the part as if it were written for her. OK, so it was written for her, so she gets more credit for Big Mike's successful rise from the gutter than her hubby, as originally credited in Michael Lewis's book; it's a movie, folks, and Hancock places her right up there on the pedestal where she belongs.
It might be argued that everything flows too smoothly, that the complications along the way are not serious enough to provide opportunities for greater depth, that it all seems so pat, so 30-ish in its old-fashioned approach; but those are minor complaints. The fact that the movie is based on a true situation helps glide over the straight-forward, by the numbers success story; and, besides, what's wrong with a movie that doesn't drag us through contemporary slime & vulgarities once in a while? It's actually refreshing.
Hancock, a pro at turning something maudlin into something with cinematic electricity, does it here again - aided by remarkable camera work from Alar Kivilo (gorgeous compositions, striking close-ups, atmospheric lighting) along with Carter Burwell's music (beautifully appropriate to each occasion, from full orchestra to contemporary folk & jazz combos).(Grade: A)