Blinded by the Light is one of those movies based on a true story that seems totally designed to be a heartwarming crowd-pleaser. It is sweet, is about nice, hard-working people, contains a few laughs and just wants to make viewers feel good. How good it makes you feel will depend on how many predictable clichés you can handle. This type of movie is generally not for me. However, I actually sort of enjoyed Blinded by the Light. It is pleasant and means well, even if it is overlong, with an extremely obvious trajectory.
It is 1987 and Javed is a Pakistani teenager living with his family in the English town of Luton. He has been brought up to think of his family first and is tired of being harassed by local racists. He wants to get away from all of it. Then, a new friend introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. This releases an explosion of emotions inside him, inspiring him to begin thinking about what he wants.
Blinded by the Light (112 minutes, minus the end credits) is a mixture of coming-of-age story, family drama, fish-out-of-water drama and musical. Though the musical performances are relatively small-scale, things do briefly stop so Javed and his friends can sing along with Bruce. Amazingly, the mixture works while retaining the clichés from each subgenre. I was unable to really get into it because it felt inorganic. Things feel like they are there because they are supposed to be, not necessarily because they fit the characters. There is nothing surprising here. Still, it is reasonably entertaining thanks to likeable performances and an open-minded screenplay.
Something that may certainly draw audiences to this is its love of Bruce Springsteen. Full disclosure: I have no real connection to his music. I do not dislike it, but it does not mean anything to me. So seeing an entire movie bursting with non-stop adoration for him is a little much. It is kind of similar to last month’s Beatles-themed comedy Yesterday, where the very concept of not enjoying their music was unthinkable. This is more personal; it is about how Bruce’s songs effect Javed, not the whole world. There was a slight disconnect for me because I do not feel that way. At times it was as if I was being preached to in a foreign language. That did not make me like it less, yet having an intimate link to the material may allow you to like it more.
Blinded by the Light is a thoroughly good natured tale about decent people trying to get past their narrow view of the world to discover all the possibilities of who they can be. As a bonus to some, they use the music of Bruce Springsteen to do so. I have no idea how truthful this is to the real Javed and his family. It feels heavily fictionalized, but hey, life can be oddly convenient, so maybe it is more accurate than it seems. I can only rate this product based on how it made me feel. Fine, I guess. It is a happy movie that treats inequality as the obstacle and does not judge Javed’s parents for having different values.
This seems like one of those instances where people will start telling me how much they loved it and be shocked it did not have a stronger impact on me. I suppose this type of story just is not my cup of tea. If the words “heartwarming,” “crowd-pleaser” and “feel good” make you want to see a movie, then ignore my cynicism and check this one out anyway.
3¼ out of 5
Viveik Kalra as Javed
Kulvinder Ghir as Malik
Meera Ganatra as Noor
Nikita Mehta as Shazia
Nell Williams as Eliza
Dean-Charles Chapman as Matt
Aaron Phagura as Roops
Hayley Atwell as Ms. Clay
Directed by Gurinder Chadha
Written by Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha and Sarfaz Manzoor