In La Bamba, I didn't see the complete immersion of the actor, Lou Diamond Phillips, with his character, Ritchie Valens, as I did with Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story and Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter. Regardless of my above statement, and the fact Lou Diamond Phillips only bears a passing resemblance to Valens, his acting ability was strong enough to make me so involved with his character that I was wishing there could be a different ending to the movie other than the one I knew was inevitable. A special note should be added that even though Phillips' performances were dubbed, his handling of the guitar playing in La Bamba added another level of authenticity to the film.
La Bamba begins during the period of Valens' life when his brother Bob had been released from jail and had made enough money to have the family move from the migrant fields back to a more stable home-life. A lot of La Bamba revolves around Ritchie and his relationship with his brother Bob. While Bob supported Ritchie, he was also envious of the success of his brother. Since Bob also had a problem with alcohol he made some bad decisions, some of which were detrimental to Ritchie. Not only Bob, but in a refreshing twist of the way a lot of early Rock and Roller's were looked at, Ritchie's whole family was supportive of him. The only thing I found hard to believe in La Bamba was Ritchie Valens carrying his guitar EVERYWHEREhe went. While I have read reports that Valens carried his guitar to school to entertain his classmates, the constant presence of the guitar seemed far fetched --- but what do I know --- maybe it was true.
In La Bamba, Valens crosses paths with a few other musicians: Los Lobos, who appear as a Mexican Bar Band; Howard Huntsberrry does a great turn as Jackie Wilson; Brian Setzer rocks out as Eddie Cochran; and Marshall Crenshaw makes a very credible Buddy Holly [Besides being a musician, Crenshaw also wrote the great reference book Hollywood Rock - A Guide To Rock n Roll In The Movies]