Blinded by the Light
Not quite on par with fellow summer 2019 celebrations of The Beatles (Yesterday) and Elton John (Rocketman), Blinded by the Light is a passionate yet awkward testament to the power of Bruce Springsteen’s music.
Set in 1987 in the dead-end English town of Luton, the fact-based film from Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) revels in a breezy opening hour as Pakistani-British teen Javed (Viveik Kalra, appearing in his feature film debut) shakes off the blues of adolescence, racism and cultural oppression to the tune of “The Promised Land” and “Hungry Heart.”
Encouraging Javed’s flannel-and-denim awakening, Rob Brydon and Aaron Phagura are terrific as fellow Bruce enthusiasts, and the decision to project The Boss’ lyrics on the sides of buildings and have them circle Javed’s head as he soaks up the relatable words is imaginative, if somewhat hokey.
This liberated charm is sadly abandoned in an overly serious second half, during which the incorporation of Springsteen songs and lyrics — often spoken aloud in goofy confrontations intended to be moments of empowerment — suddenly feels forced, particularly a singalong montage set to “Born to Run” in which only the cast has fun.
Likewise troubling is the simplistic presentation of Javed’s writing talents and their alleged evolution as shepherded by supportive literature teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell).
Slowed by an excessive 20-30 minutes, the bloated runtime keeps Blinded by the Light from being the nimble musical comedy with dramatic overtones that it seemingly wants to be and solidifies its mediocrity.
Grade: C-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, Carolina Cinemark, and Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Nick Wall/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)