La Bamba

Year: 1987
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Louis Valdez
Producer: Taylor Hackford
Writer: Louis Valdez
Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosana De Soto, Esai Morales, Elizabeth Pena, Joe Pantoliano, Danielle von Zerneck
As I write this review, it's the era of the music legend biopic. We've had Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and even a parody on the genre from the 40 Year Old Virgin guys.

So the life of Ritchie Valens might have been a little premature back in the late 80s. You also have to feel for Lou Diamond Phillips, who showed great charisma and promise as Valens but somehow never managed to capitalise on it.

It's an entertaining story, although a little soft when it comes to the genre where heroin addiction, domestic violence, the lust for power and the destruction of the soul seem the order of the day.

According to the movie, Valens was just a nice guy who got to be a star and never stopped loving his family and holding onto the natural and easy-going high principles he was born with. Even when his ne'er-do-well brother Bob (Morales) returns home from the slammer and steals his girlfriend (Pena), he forgives and loves them both unconditionally.

Apart from the horrible finality of the film's conclusion nothing bad happens apart from Valens' ascendancy to fame through the poverty of California's Mexican population, but while there's little brutality about his life, there's tension enough in his family - particularly with black sheep brother.

If you have even a passing knowledge of popular music history you'll know about Valens' fate aged only 17 along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, and along the way there are heaps of actors playing famous singers if you're a trivia spotter. Combined with a sweet earnestness and a catchy soundtrack from Los Lobos, it's a neat story about a tragic figure, and also Writer/director Valdez' last credited film.

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