Incredibly feel-good and heavy-handedly inspirational, the movie's portrayal of Oher's rescue from homelessness, uphill academic battle at a Christian private school and overnight integration into a white family is glossy. It unfolds virtually without a hiccup, save for a tear here and a momentary dust-up with the NCAA there.
Of course with a story so remarkable, it's only natural to wonder where the facts end and the fiction begins. We take a look at some of the movie's contrasts with real life.
REAL PEOPLE VS. ACTORS WHO PLAY THEM
FICTION: First things first: How different does everyone look in the movie? 'The Blind Side' stars Quinton Aaron as Oher, a blond Sandra Bullock and a dimply Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne and Sean, respectively. Pipsqueak Jae Head plays their precocious son S.J. and the perfectly pretty Lily Collins portrays their daughter, Collins.
FACT: Physically speaking, Michael and S.J. are the most strikingly different in real-life (especially S.J., who doesn't look like much of a pipsqueak at all). But you'll have to see the movie to make your own call (as is becoming customary in films based on an inspiring true story, the end credits are accompanied by photos of the real family).
MICHAEL ENROLLS AT BRIARCREST CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
FICTION: Despite a nearly non-existent academic record, Briarcrest's football coach appeals to his colleagues' religious beliefs to convince them to admit Michael to the school. At first, the teachers bristle at his blank tests and mute silence, but they eventually discover that Michael isn't stupid, and that he learns best through oral communication. Signal the heart-swelling montage of rising test scores!
FACT: According to Lewis, Briarcrest's coach did lobby his colleagues to accept Michael's application. But the principal didn't let Michael in before insisting on a home-school program for a few months to get his grades up.
SEAN AND MICHAEL'S FIRST ENCOUNTER
FICTION: Sean Tuohy (McGraw) sees Michael collecting discarded bags of popcorn in the stands after one of Collins' volleyball games, and introduces himself. It's their last encounter until the Tuohy's fateful Thanksgiving drive (see below).
FACT: Lewis writes that Sean went back to Briarcrest the next day, and set up a lunch account for Michael to make sure he had something to eat.
THE TUOHYS AND MICHAEL MEET
FICTION: 'The Blind Side''s big-screen version portrays the fateful night when the Tuohys saw Michael on the side of the road, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt in harsh weather. Leigh Anne offers Michael a place to stay for the night, and their lives change forever.
FACT: The Tuohys did actually encounter Michael on the side of the road during Thanksgiving break -- but it was in the morning, and Leigh Anne didn't offer him a place to stay immediately. Instead, she later rolled up to Briarcrest and took Michael shopping.
LIFE WITH THE TUOHYS
FICTION: Michael's integration into the fabric of Tuohy family life is seamless. All it takes is a little hug between Sean and Leigh Anne to talk out adoption, while Collins shrugs off what the kids at school are saying about her new roomie. And SJ? He's nothing but ecstatic.
FACT: Whatever tension may have arisen in the Tuohy household stays in the Tuohy household. Then again, it's possible that there really wasn't any: By numerous accounts in the media, all hands were on board to welcome, love and nurture their new family member. Leigh Anne has said that, months after Michael arrived, S.J. would introduce him as his best friend. Collins, meanwhile, has said in recent interviews that she and Michael grew close through their shared experiences at Briarcrest and also during college, when they both attended
THE ROLE OF RACE
FICTION: Race is acknowledged a few times in 'The Blind Side,' like during a football game when a brutish player taunts Michael on the field. In the Tuohy household, it's a non-subject, except for when Sean admits amazement that he had a "black son" before he knew a Democrat.
FACT: Lewis notes that Leigh Anne grew up in a racist household, and that she doesn't exactly know how her own views changed. She's been quoted as saying, "I married a man who doesn't know his own color."