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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Staying true to one's dreams; family loyalty.
Positive Role Models
When a producer asks Ritchie what's more important -- his friends or his music -- Ritchie replies, "My family." Ritchie works hard to be a successful musician, is shown working in the studio doing 60 takes on a song until it is right, is shown sick with a bad cold while on tour but opting to tough it out. Characters are generally good, supportive, and caring people. One character is a violent, alcoholic ex-con who struggles with his behavior throughout the film but appears to be cleaning up his act in the end.
Violence & Scariness
One character in particular has violent, alcohol-fueled flare-ups that include fistfights and brawls with men and violence against his girlfriend -- verbal, physical, and sexual (a rape is implied by not shown). This character, Ritchie's brother, confides in Ritchie when talking about his relationship with his girlfriend, "I almost have to rape her just to have sex." Ritchie has a recurring and increasingly graphic nightmare in which two planes crash in the sky and the fiery wreckage rains down on children in a schoolyard. A main character dies in a plane crash, which takes place offscreen and is handled by radio reports. A folk healer is shown stripping a dead rattlesnake in half.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief nudity, female breasts when young boys spy on women taking showers in an outdoor work camp. A couple passionately makes out; they are still wearing most of their clothing and are shown from the chest up when they appear to start having sex. Teens kiss and "neck." The same character takes his younger brother to Tijuana to get him "laid." Prostitutes at a brothel/dance hall line up to be chosen.
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Regular profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "s--thole," "goddamn." Spanish language profanity "cabron" used. Middle-finger gesture.
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Products & Purchases
Budweiser neon sign in bar.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters are shown drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, smoking pot. One character sells a friend some marijuana; the kilos are shown taped to his torso under his shirt. The same character often becomes drunk and violent. A character wakes up with a hangover.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that La Bamba is a 1987 biopic on legendary 1950s rock and roller Ritchie Valens. In addition to telling the story of Valens' rise and untimely death, the movie also shows Ritchie's brother Bob's struggles with alcohol. When drunk, Bob is violent to his girlfriend and family, verbally and physically abusive. When the movie begins, Bob has just gotten out of prison, and is later shown selling marijuana to a friend; the marijuana was taped to his chest, presumably smuggled. While confiding in his brother about his girlfriend, Bob tells Ritchie, "I almost have to rape her just to have sex." In the aftermath of Ritchie's heartbreak due to being unable to see his girlfriend Donna because her father is prejudiced against Mexican Americans, Bob tells Ritchie, "We gotta get you some tail," and the two go to Tijuana, where Bob takes Ritchie to a whorehouse. Ritchie wakes up the next day extremely hung over with a new tattoo in the hut of an elderly man. There's some cigarette smoking, as well as some profanity, including "f--k." Brief nudity is seen (female breasts) when young boys are caught spying on women taking a shower in a work camp on a farm. In addition, Ritchie's untimely death and his family's grief might be a bit much to take for more sensitive viewers, especially families who have recently lost loved ones. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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 make an appearance as a Tijuana dance-hall band. Rock musicians Marshall Crenshaw and Brian Setzer have cameos as Holly and Eddie Cochran.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.