"A biopic that deftly avoids the usual tiresome gimmicks."
One of the better biopics of the past few decades, Luis Valdez' "La Bamba" does a glowing service to its inspiration. Perhaps otherwise destined to be remembered as a talented footnote in musical history, Richie Valens is immortalized for the masses in this well-conceived and involving movie.Writer-director Valdez deserves most of the praise, as his film is a colorful and straightforward one, and one that doesn't deify or demonize its subject. Sure, the flick may not be a literal translation of what happened in Valens' young life, but at least the film has an earnest respect for the young singer who died way too soon.
After Valdez, it's the two leading men who deserve some applause; Lou Diamond Phillips delivers a star-making turn as Ritchie, while strong character actor Esai Morales smolders the screen whenever he pops up. (How Morales was not nominated for an Oscar here just boggles my mind.) The always-cool Joe Pantoliano capably adds some background color...as he's been doing for years and years.
With a solid sense for period and a collection of fantastic old tunes (including the wonderful title track), La Bamba is a great litle movie, and it's certainly not one meant solely for fans of the ill-fated performer. For a worthwhile trip back in time, or as a revisit with a rocker who died too soon, La Bamba is absolutely worthy of your 108 minutes.
DVD Details: Widescreen format, Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo, full-length audio commentary with producer Taylor Hackford and writer/director Daniel Valdez, Los Lobos' "La Bamba" music video, Howard Huntsberry's "Lonely Teardrops" music video, "Remembering Ritchie" featurette, and some theatrical trailers.Nothing revolutionary, but a biopic this engaging and entertaining is surely worthy of honest praise.