'The Blind Side' entertaining, heart-warming

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If you saw and enjoyed "The Blind Side" -- as I did -- you might want to read the book by Michael Lewis.

While the movie that this true story is based on essentially follows the book, it only focuses on Michael Oher's amazing life, in which he went from being a homeless, uneducated teenager to being a star football player who ultimately makes it to the NFL.

Lewis, however, focuses a great deal of attention -- about half the book -- analyzing how changing football strategy has made the left tackle position one of the most important on a football team. Lewis goes into great detail as he looks at the changes to defenses that prompted changes to offenses that prompt further changes to defenses. The center of all these changes is the offensive line, particularly the left tackle who must protect the right-handed quarterback's blind side from the pass rush.

Lewis uses Oher's story as an anecdote to put a human face on the Xs and Os.

I read the book -- "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" -- some time ago, because I'd become interested after reading an excerpt in Sports Illustrated. When I bought the book I thought I was buying a book on football strategy.

Given that, I was interested to see how director John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") would make a movie from Lewis' book.

Hancock did a wonderful job. He cut the football analysis to a few threads that he skillfully used to tie together the story of Michael Oher.

We first meet Oher, known on the streets of Memphis as Big Mike, as a 16-year-old. Michael, who is black, has no home. He doesn't know his dad, and his mom is on crack. He sleeps where he can. He has only one pair of shorts and two well-worn shirts.

Michael is brought to the attention of the football coach at an expensive private school outside of Memphis. Michael is a giant -- very tall and well over 300 pounds. He can dunk a basketball with ease.

The coach quickly sees Michael as his ticket to a championship -- and a bigger, better job. He works the system to get Michael enrolled in the school.

But the situation -- and Michael -- is a bit more complex than the coach ever imagined. Michael is an academic disaster with no hope of getting grades high enough to qualify him for the football team.

It looks like there's no hope for Michael.

But a chance encounter with the Tuohys changes his life. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy get Michael out of the rain and allow him to spend the night in their huge home. Sean, a former basketball star at Ole Miss and the announcer for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, owns 80-plus Taco Bells.

Anyway, once the Tuohys bring Michael into their lives, they embrace him as a member of the family, and then they do what's necessary to help him succeed.

It's a struggle. And that, of course, is what makes "The Blind Side" an entertaining and heart-warming movie.

Sandra Bullock is outstanding as Leigh Anne Tuohy. Her personality sizzles on the big screen.

Tim McGraw does a solid job as Sean, and, perhaps more importantly, he allows Bullock to shine brightly in her role.

Quinton Aaron is first-rate as Michael. He is understated and believable in his role.

"The Blind Side" is a wonderful film that does a terrific job of telling a powerful story. It's well worth seeing.

Rick Eskil can be reached at rickeskil@wwub.com or 509-526-8309.

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