Born to poverty. Destined for stardom. He lived the American dream.
"Two Thumps Up. Siskel & Ebert
|The rise and tragic fall of rock legend richie valens. Includes featurette, music video, and commentary by producer taylor hackford.|
Rock 'n Roll biopic on the life of Ritchie Valens, a young Mexican/American whose talents as a rock and roll singer catapulted him from the obscurity of a farm laborer obsessed with music to stardom at the age of seventeen with a string of pop hits still popular today. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie and an excellent Esai Morales as his brother Bob, with whom he had a loving but tempestuous relationship.
Cast & Crew
A film biography of Mexican-American musician and singer Ritchie Valens, a one-time fruit picker who became a rock-and-roll legend.| The story covers his early career (when he scheduled gigs in between high school classes); his romance with blond, WASP-y Donna, the namesake of one of his pop hits; and the ill-fated national tour he played with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
New York Times
"...[Brings Valens's] music to life all over again....Philips has a sweetness and sincerity that in no way diminish[es] the toughness of his onstage persona..."
"...LA BAMBA is engrossing throughout and boasts numerous fine performances. In Lou Diamond Phillips' sympathetic turn, Valens comes across as a very fine young man..."
Sight and Sound
"...Engaging biopic of 50s rock 'n' roll star Ritchie Valens....His music is rousingly performed by Los Lobos..."
Chicago Sun Times 0 of 10
This is a good small movie, sweet and sentimental, about a kid who never really got a chance to show his stuff. The best things in it are the most unexpected things: the portraits of everyday life, of a loving mother, of a brother who loves and resents him, of a kid growing up and tasting fame and leaving everyone standing around at his funeral shocked that his life ended just as it seemed to be beginning.
- Roger Ebert
Washington Post 0 of 10
Lou Diamond Phillips, the star of La Bamba, Luis Valdez's film about the life of rock 'n' roll singer-songwriter Ritchie Valens, has the broad, noble face of a Mayan deity. It's a face with great inherent beauty and dignity, a great face for the camera, a great face for myth-making. And rock 'n' roll myth-making is what Valdez is up to... La Bamba is a puzzle -- a real mixed bag. Some of it, like the braying, cock-and-bull performance by Esai Morales, is just plain awful. But other bits, like the performances by Rosana De Soto and, as Ritchie's agent, Joe Pantoliano, are unexpectedly vibrant. The Valens music, too, performed in the film by the Los Angeles Mex-rock band Los Lobos, is a kick. Lead singer David Hidalgo, who performs the Valens vocals, actually has a more working-class quality to his voice than Valens' sweet tenor had. It feels as if he's lived a story similar to the one the movie tells -- it sounds rooted in that life -- and that may have something to do with why his versions of the songs, some of which are improvements on the originals, work so well in the film. The tale has the classic lines of a rock 'n' roll rise to glory, and you may feel you've seen some of the early sequences -- the tryouts, divey clubs and scrub bands -- in dozens of other movies. And you probably have. The movie plays like a greatest hits of movie bio cliche's. But Valdez presents it all unapologetically, with brio, and the mood of the film is so vibrant and the energy so uninhibited that you're carried over the familiarity of the terrain. The outlines of the film are the same as those of '30s and '40s movies in which talented young kids from the Lower East Side (or wherever) rise to the top, but Valdez seems to have some primal, native resonance in his story; he's seen something immutable, classical and true in it. And darned if he doesn't believe in it so deeply that he almost convinces you it's true, too.
- Hal Hinson