Sandra BullockWith both The Proposal and The Blind Side under her belt (let's just forget about All About Steve, 'mkay?), Sandra Bullock was the biggest box office star of 2009. Both roles garnered Golden Globe nominations, although some might wonder what, in the bigger scheme of movie-making, the Golden Globes really have to offer other than a night of Rickey Gervais making fun of celebs, Oscar prognostication and water cooler talk aside. I'm glad to see both the return of Bullock and a woman-led film bringing in the most bucks in 2009.

But while I enjoyed The Proposal despite myself and most of the ideas I hold dear, I couldn't bring myself to see The Blind Side, which seemed Forrest Gump-like in its smug feel- and do-goodery.

Yes, I know that The Blind Side is based on a true story, and I do believe that taking someone into your home and treating him or her as your flesh and blood is acting as what one might call a true Christian. (Or doing a mitzvah, etc. etc.) And in this case, real life is even better than the movies; the young homeless boy that Bullock's onscreen family adopts, Michael Oher, now plays for the NFL Ravens, on top of being the subject of The Blind Side and the book it was based on.
But even Sandra Bullock admits she was wary, telling ScreenCrave, "One of my biggest questions was how people use their faith and their religion as a banner and then they don't do the right thing, and then they go, 'I'm a good Christian and I go to church and this is the way you should live your life,' and I told Leigh Anne and I said it in a live interview we had, I said, one of largest concerns at the end of this was that whole banner holding... It scared me because I've had experiences that haven't been great, I don't buy a lot of people who use that as their shield, and she was open and honest and forthright and I said, wow I've finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach."

That cringing feeling I got from the trailers only intensified when I read Nicole LaPorte's piece on The Daily Beast about the "faith-based marketing" that went on alongside the regular movie marketing. It worked for The Passion of the Christ, right? And I'd wager that more movies than we might realize also benefit from the services of marketing agencies like Grace Hill, which handled The Blind Side's targeted marketing.

What's impressive and fascinating is how Grace Hill put together its marketing package. According to LaPorte,
One of Grace Hill's most innovative techniques was to provide half a dozen clips from The Blind Side, along with "sermon outlines," to 22,000 megachurches (most of which are equipped with huge screens, typically used to display lyrics to rock hymns). Pastors were encouraged to, while showing a movie clip to their congregation, apply a "biblical connection" and "life application" contained in the Grace Hill promotional materials.
These included Bible references to go with different scenes and plenty of screenings and press ops for churches and Christian-based publications. Read an interview with Grace Hill's Jonathan Bock on their strategy over at Advertising Age for more.

It also didn't hurt that the movie tones down the more overtly religious aspects of the book. It's a little wink and a nudge to the church-going audience - nothing's really being crammed down anyone's throats, but if you look for The Big Message, it's there.

Did you see The Blind Side, and if so, would it have affected how you felt about the movie if the Tuohy family, who started their own church called Grace Evangelical, was portrayed as more or less religious as they are in real life?