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Films: The Blind Side * * *

(drama. Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Ray McKinnon. Directed by John Lee Hancock. cert 12A)

It'd be hard to contest the fact that Sandra Bullock is the most popular actress in Hollywood. Even people who'd rather spend the day queueing outside the Passport Office than sit through one of her generic rom-coms must have felt a tinge of sympathy recently when it transpired that her husband, the celebrity motorbike customiser Jesse James (there might have been a bit of a clue in the name there), was a bit of a low-life. He'd been going hog wild with a woman who has tattoos on her head, so one shudders to think what might be lurking under the engine cowling.

Poor Sandra, and what with her being such a good sport and all by turning up to collect her Razzie for the risible All About Steve the day before nabbing the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in The Blind Side. The truth of it is, she only deserved one of those statuettes -- and it wasn't for this.

There's nothing overtly wrong or objectionable about The Blind Side. It ticks plenty of boxes when it comes to 'inspirational' and 'aspirational' storylines, but has all the emotional depth of one of those 'true life' fillers which used to clog the shelves of video rental stores back in the day.

Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a feisty, God-fearin' all-American family woman with a 'can do' attitude which would shame a cohort of coolies. Of course, one could point out that it's rather easier to adopt such an outlook on life when one happens to be married to a multi-millionaire Memphis businessman with all the right (or should that be Right?) connections, but let us not nitpick about such matters.

Essentially, the story boils down to Tuohy's role in helping Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) over a difficult period in his life en route to him becoming a professional in American football.

Having initially been accepted into a prestigious Christian school in Memphis on the basis that he may possess athletic prowess, Oher is struggling both academically and on the sportsfield until, practically homeless, he's taken into the bosom of Tuohy's family and, in effect, adopted.

Bullock is fine as Tuohy, even though she doesn't really have an awful lot to do, given that The Blind Side is all but devoid of any real dramatic tension. Sure, there's the possibility that Oher won't make the grade in the classroom or on the gridiron, but such is the steely determination of Tuohy that you're never in any doubt about how things will pan out, and that makes for a pretty long two hours in a cinema.

There is a hint of a darker, more interesting theme when the motivations of Tuohy and her husband (Tim McGraw) in steering Oher towards Mississippi University ahead of other colleges are questioned, but director John Lee Hancock gets rid of that ball all too quickly and it's back to apple pie and toothy smiles in no time at all.

As Oher, Aaron doesn't get to do too much beyond play the stoic, gentle giant, so it's left to Bullock to provide the only real focus, which she does in a solid, workman-like, but hardly Oscar-worthy, performance. HHHII