Selena

on March 21, 1997 by Jean Oppenheimer
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   Casting the role of Tejano superstar Selena must have been a nerve-racking business. The charismatic singer, only 23 years old when she was shot to death by the president of her fan club, was one of the biggest Latina music stars in the world. The success of any movie about her would depend on the actress who played her. The people behind "Selena" can breathe a sigh of relief: Jennifer Lopez ("Blood and Wine") is sensational. She not only looks remarkably like the real star, but she radiates the same incredible energy, warmth, style and magnetism for which the young pop singer was known.
   As a whole, the film suffers from some of the usual flaws of a mainstream music biopic. Here, those include syrupy incidental music (Selena's actual songs, lipsynched by Lopez, are terrific); retro-feeling split-screen concert scenes reminiscent of rock films from the 1970s; and schmaltzy moments between characters. With the exception of Selena's father (Edward James Olmos), the supporting characters are just too good to be true, never losing their tempers or experiencing pangs of jealousy.
   To the film's credit, it does paint Abraham Quintanilla Jr. (who executive produces) as an autocratic, at times tyrannical, father. Olmos offers a fully rounded portrait as the family patriarch, communicating the man's fierce love for his brood as well as his domineering side. Special mention must also go to 10-year-old newcomer Becky Lee Meza, who winningly plays Selena as a child. Selena, who during her short career released two gold and one platinum albums and won a Grammy, had been recording her first crossover album when she was murdered. The film of her life is aimed for crossover appeal, too, and with Jennifer Lopez's appealing performance "Selena" might just achieve it. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos and Jon Seda. Directed and written by Gregory Nava. Produced by Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz. A Warner Bros. release. Drama. Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements. Running time: 127 min
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