What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that a central character dies in this movie, although the death occurs off-screen. Also, there are several scenes involving violence, drunkenness, and/or drug use. While Ritchie's courting of Donna is innocent and sweet, his brother is quite the opposite with women. He's violent and a scene implies that he forces sex on his girlfriend. Both that and Ritchie's recurring (and prophetic) dreams of a plane crash will be disturbing to sensitive and younger viewers.
What's the story?
LA BAMBA chronicles the life story of 1950s Mexican American pop singer Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips), who broke barriers with mainstream hits including "Come on, Let's Go" and "La Bamba." Ritchie is a dutiful son compared to older brother and bad boy Bob (Esai Morales), and the difference causes friction between the two brothers. In high school, Ritchie plays in a band, and falls in love with Donna, but her parents disapprove of her relationship with a Latino from the other side of the tracks. Ritchie continues to hone his skills while struggling with his tempestuous relationship with Bob, and he constantly suffers from a fear of flying. When a record producer (Joe Pantoliano) discovers Ritchie playing at a teen dance, that fateful meeting leads to Valens' biggest hit singles. On a tour in the Midwest, the rising star boards a plane with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. It's February 3, 1959 -- the day the music died.
Is it any good?
LA BAMBA feels like rock 'n' roll in the fabulous '50s: fresh, young, exciting, sentimental, a little bit dangerous, but irresistibly infectious. Lou Diamond Phillips, with his wide-eyed energy and boyish charm, is endearing as the Mexican-American performer whose time in the spotlight was tragically brief. The movie also depicts an intense but loving relationship between two brothers.
The concert sequences are fun and energetic, and Phillips commands the stage in these scenes. Valens' music and vocals are provided by Los Lobos, who also makes an appearance as a Tijuana dance-hall band. Rock musicians Marshall Crenshaw and Brian Setzer also have cameos as Holly and Eddie Cochran.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the dynamics of Ritchie's family: What are the positive and negative aspects of their interactions and what is the distinction between the two brothers? How does the movie portray Mexican-Americans in 1950s California? Why does Ritchie change his name to something less "ethnic"? How accurate is the movie's portrayal of Ritchie?