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Blinded By The Light

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 19, 2019
Blinded By The Light

If theatrical producers in the West End of London, and on Broadway, are not currently developing "Blinded by the Light" for the stage, like a jukebox musical, they are sorely behind the times. No story could be better suited to theatricalize the music of Bruce Springsteen than, oddly enough, this comedy-drama about a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager from a working-class borough in the East of England. As a movie musical, it has some wonderful moments but doesn't live up to some of the other work of its director, Gurinder Chadha.

It's 1987 and Luton, England is, in many ways, the New Jersey to London's New York. Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), as one of only two South Asian students in his secondary school, feels lost in the sea of Luton's middle-class mores and pervasive racism. His only outlet is writing, but no one encourages him in this. And though he's stalked by white supremacists, they aren't as oppressive as his family, especially now that his father is out of work.

Then he discovers the music of The Boss, and everything seems to turn around for him. He and his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) respond to the working-class angst of this balladeer from the Garden State. Bruce's lyrics about life in Jersey speak to these out-of-place English natives, even though the rock star is now out of fashion. From the moment Javed pops that Springsteen cassette tape into his Walkman, he's bitten by an English version of the American Dream.

In her films, Chadha excels at capturing the quirky and charming essence of a distinct kind of feel-good story. It's a story of the immigrant and the dreamer, the gifted and the held-down. It's a story full of an array of comic characters and a faith in the endlessness of human potential.

Based on the memoir "Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N' Roll" by Sarfraz Manzoor, this film also has a lot of potential. It has strong themes and comic charm. But it's also very episodic and tangential, mired in bit parts and side stories. The plot stops entirely for the musical sequences, which wouldn't be bad if the numbers were bigger and better produced.

Perhaps the creators are trying too hard to hold to the memoir. A little more fiction, a lot more structure, and some glitzy production numbers could really make this movie sing. Right now it just recites lyrics.

This Blu-ray comes with two behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted and extended scenes.

"Blinded by the Light"

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