Sandra Bullock was apparently a very good sport about picking up a Razzie for the worst performance of 2009 in All about Steve, and a few days later accepted her Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side with equally becoming modesty.
While you wouldn't begrudge her the award for her performance as a real-life Memphis mother of two – there is an energy and fire in this combative matron – you have to wonder how anyone in the Academy could really be taken in by a film so utterly detached from the one thing it's meant to be rewarding: drama.
Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, an affluent Southern mum who out of the goodness of her Christian heart takes in an impoverished black teenager named Mike Oher (Quinton Aaron), makes him a part of her family and encourages him to fulfil his potential as an American football player. It's a remarkable true-life story, which the writer-director John Lee Hancock has distilled into Disney syrup: a forlorn outsider meets his fairy godmother and rises to greatness. Somehow we expect Leigh Anne's act of charity to ruffles a few feathers, yet her husband, son and daughter accept Mike in their home without a peep. One or two of her prissier lunch companions let themselves down, and she faces off a leering thug from Mike's ghetto past, but there is hardly a moment when Leigh Anne's force of will looks likely to be knocked off course.
Part of the problem lies in the characterisation of Mike, a shy, taciturn youth who's reluctant to talk about his awful upbringing (a dead father, a drug-addict mother who abandoned him), leaving a great big hole for Leigh Anne to fill with grace-at-dinner piety and a crushing self-righteousness. Not enough that she ticks off a beardy redneck who's barracking Mike two rows back at the ball game; she also invades football practice to deliver her personal brand of coaching to her gentle-giant protege, unlocking his protective instincts towards the team's quarterback ("think of him as me").
The only wrinkle of controversy comes at the end, when a tough-minded childcare bureaucrat raises the possibility that Mike's career choices may have been manipulated by his adoptive parents: does Leigh Anne have her own blind side, too? The doubt pops up, only to be dumped on its backside in the manner of Mike's monster tackles on his opponents. Phew – the five-minute tension is over. The Blind Side is plainly designed to make whole swathes of Americans feel good about themselves, and perhaps make everyone else ponder a selective act of charity few of us would be capable of. It is heartwarming; it is tender; it is remorselessly unexciting.