THE BLIND SIDE: On his application to dental school, a college friend of mine was asked to give his philosophy of life. His succinct answer was that “People are no damn good.” Even the most hard-bitten cynic, though, might change his mind after seeing this true-to-life film about a homeless black teenager (Quinton Aaron) whose life is turned around when he’s taken in by a wealthy, white Memphis couple (Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw). This transformation of Michael Oher from an urban wastrel into a Dean’s List student and an NFL first-round draft choice is such a great story in and of itself that a filmmaker would almost have to try to keep it from being the crowd pleasing movie that it is. But director/writer John Lee Hancock (THE ROOKIE) is familiar enough with the province of feel-good, upbeat sports flicks that he knows how to incorporate the conventions of such works into a screenplay that earns its real sentiment by virtue of its being a real story. Even if it only scratches the surface of the sociological issues of Southern whites opening their home to a big, black teenager, the movie benefits from winning performances by Bullock (THE PROPOSAL) and country singer McGraw (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS), who manages to lose himself in his role by looking perfectly ordinary. Even if Hancock’s high school pigskin game and practice scenes are contrived, I can overlook them since he does have a definite grasp on how relevant football is to the fabric of Southerners. Although handkerchiefs are a practical accessory for this movie, I never once felt that it went for cheap and easy sentiment since the events depicted occurred without the aid of creative license. While it isn’t “the great American sports movie,” it’s more than adequate as an entertainment vehicle that restores your faith in people’s potential for goodness.

MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN DECEMBER: BROTHERS (December 4), EVERYBODY’S FINE (December 4), UP IN THE AIR (December 4), INVICTUS (December 11), THE LOVELY BONES (December 11), A SINGLE MAN (December 11), AVATAR (December 18), ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (December 25), IT’S COMPLICATED (December 25), SHERLOCK HOMES (December 25)