REVIEW: ‘Blinded by the Light’ is blinded by cliches

Bruce Springsteen’s music works well in movies, as shown in “Jerry Maguire” and “The Wrestler.” But if just one Springsteen song in a movie isn’t enough for a person, they may find the jackpot in “Blinded by the Light.”

Set in late 80s Britain during the time of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, “Blinded by the Light” follows the story of teenage student Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) under a lot of stress. In the midst of a recession, his parents Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) and Noor (Meera Ganatra) who immigrated from Pakistan are struggling to make ends meet.

In the face of financial hardships, signs of racism and pure teenage angst, Javed searches for some escapism. He ends up finding it in the music of Bruce Springsteen. After hearing a few tapes, he becomes hooked and turns into a mega-fan, with the music even inspiring him to become a writer. However, his new style and swagger runs into conflict with the ways of his father.

“Blinded” is basically a big cliche. At its core, the movie is just another tale of a young creative character who runs opposite of their more conservative parents, until they learn to get along better.

However, this story element is one of the better aspects to the picture overall and it thankfully sheds light on a topic that hasn’t really been touched on. The story of an immigrant family trying to make their way in this country in the middle of a recession, even with familiar plot points, is compelling and can educate an audience in a positive way.

Courtesy New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, what’s supposed to be the movie’s main selling point, Springsteen’s music, actually turns out to kind of be its downfall. The dude has of course made some good music over the years, but the execution in placing them in the movie here had some issues.

First of all, there are some points where the characters are sort of singing the songs and dancing, but this isn’t all the time. It’s almost like there was an idea for this to be a musical, but that was eventually scrapped and downplayed.

Another thing that happens inconsistently is where sometimes the lyrics appear as captions on the screen and sometimes they don’t. On top of being inconsistent, they’re entirely unnecessary to drive the point home between how the song is connecting with what the characters are experiencing.

The worst part, though, is just how downright obsessed Javed is. Everyone has their favorite musician or band, but Javed is almost too extreme with it. It gets to a point where I think even other Springsteen fans would tell him to tone it down a bit. There are so many sequences where Javed doesn’t just look to Springsteen as just an artist he really likes, but as almost a prophet.

It doesn’t really translate well to his own art, either. The movie implies Springsteen’s music inspires him to be a better writer but the audience never really gets to experience his growth.

Then, on the flip side, Javed’s father is portrayed as too much of a generic dad who doesn’t want his son to be interested in art and wants him to follow his family’s traditions. It just feels too run of the mill.

In all fairness, the cast here does fine work. Kalra and Ghir commit to their performances and deliver the best they can here, and they genuinely create some touching moments.

As a whole, though, this one is a disappointment. There are good ideas at play and a fine cast even, but the execution is off. 2 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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