La Bamba brings music to life. Ritchie Valens was one of the most promising young singers who ever lived. His tragic death at 17 on “The Day the Music Died” left a lasting impact on the music industry. Though I never knew too much about his personal life. I only knew that my parents were big fans of the movie La Bamba. Lou Diamond Phillips shines as the Mexican American Richard Valenzuela. The film covers his entire rags to riches story as he moves to California with his family. Ritchie has big dreams to one day become a successful musician.
La Bamba does an excellent job balancing his career with the relationships he forms along the way. His mother is very supportive, but his troubled half-brother Bob is always in his shadow. Esai Morales steals many scenes with his alcoholism, drug abuse, mistreatment of girlfriend Rosie, and failed dream to become a cartoonist. Ritchie’s relationship with high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig inspires his hit song “Donna.” Together they deal with her racist father, but the late 50’s are surprisingly kind to their romance.
Joe Pantoliano is Ritchie Valens’ manager who gives him his stage name and makes him a star. Though I recognize songs like “Come On, Let’s Go” and “Donna,” “La Bamba” will always be his biggest hit. Los Lobos perform Valens’ songs per the families request. Of course I knew the fateful flight with Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” was coming since Ritchie is haunted by recurring nightmares of a plane crash. The music may have died February 3, 1959, but La Bamba made sure Ritchie Valens’ legacy would live on.