Selena Quintanilla-Perez was a once in a life talent that rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s as one of the most celebrated Mexican entertainers of all time. She was coined the “Queen of Tejano music,” but such a description does not fully encapsulate the impact she had on popular culture. A year after winning a Grammy and as she began recording her English-language crossover album, Selena was tragically killed in a devastating blow to the Latino and music communities. Deep in the process of grief, the Quintanilla family reluctantly agreed to produce a film about her life to combat the multiple unauthorized movies being rushed to production. Selena debuted in 1997, a mere two years after the murder of the titular singer, and it stands as the definitive account of the life of this beloved figure.
Following multiple failed attempts at breaking into the music business in his youth, an adult Abraham Quintanilla (Edwards James Olmos) recognizes a real talent in his daughter, Selena, who is portrayed as a child by the effervescent Rebecca Lee Meza. Abraham convinces his doubting, yet supportive, wife, Marcela (Constance Marie), to essentially force his three children to start a band centered on the singing of Selena. Olmos does an impeccable job inhabiting the hapless patriarch that struggles to provide for his family and puts all his hopes on the success of his children. After years of toiling away regionally, spicing up their performance and coming into their own as a band, they slowly start to gain a real momentum towards their future stardom.
After an extensive casting search to find the perfect Selena, the Quintanilla family and director Gregory Nava (El Norte) ultimately decided on relative newcomer Jennifer Lopez to portray the adult version of Selena. Although she had a few smaller parts prior to this film, this is what put Lopez on the track to stardom where she now resides. The film opts to let Lopez lip synch to actual recordings of Selena, but what cannot be faked is the irresistible charm she brings to the performance which totally sells why an entire community would fall in love with her. The movie hits pretty standard biopic beats including crowds getting more massive with every show, tension between Selena and her father, and the introduction of a new band member and future husband (Jon Seda). There are elements of the film that very much feel like you are watching a high quality made-for-TV movie, but the melodrama is admittedly entertaining and somewhat charming.
The real treat of this movie is getting to know the emotional side of this cultural icon that was taken from this world entirely too soon. The performances are thrilling and give a glimpse into why audiences connected with her, but seeing Selena’s offstage personality as dictated by those who knew her best is even more fascinating. The movie obviously portrays Selena in the most flattering light, but it does not completely shy way from some tough times. As it was in life, the ending is abrupt, but the movie chooses to not sensationalize the tragedy in favor of showcasing the greater impact she had on her community. The movie can be a bit cheesy at times, but it is a lovely tribute to an amazing talent.
The Blu-Ray contains both the Theatrical Version and an Extended Edition of the film that was commonly shown on television that runs just over six minutes longer. These added moments are comprised of extended performances and some emotional moments that add to her backstory. Exact details on the scenes can be found here.
Warner Archive brings the long-awaited high definition release of Selena to Blu-Ray with an excellent 1080p presentation. This is a film with a very warm color palette that the transfer handles incredibly well. The movie has natural film grain throughout that adds some nice texture to the image. Skin tones look natural and there is very fine detail apparent on faces during close-up shots. The updated transfer provides a excellent amount of detail to the image including some more defined pieces of set design previously lost to the background. There are no obvious instances of black crush present here. Once again, Warner Archive has knocked it out the park with this transfer.
For a movie about one of the most talented singers the world has known, the audio is obviously going to be of utmost importance. Luckily for us, Warner Archive provides a killer DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that envelops the room with the warm sounds of Tejano music. From intimate performances to crowded arenas, live performances are a major part of this movie, and the speakers handle all of the aspects well from real-life Selena’s voice to the instruments and even the roar of the crowd. This track makes good use of the surround speakers to ensure that everything is balanced and coming through clearly. There is an extremely brief, minor audio issue with the bungee jumping instructor’s voice that is likely a source issue from when it was originally recorded. Other than that, this is basically a flawless track that gives the movie a vitality that it deserves.
- Selena – Queen of Tejano: A nineteen-minute featurette where Selena’s real-life family and band members reflect on their life growing up and touring with Selena. The stories are told with love and reveal a lot of interesting anecdotes that make this a worthwhile watch.
- The Making of Selena – 10 Years Later: A thirty-minute overview with the previously mentioned real-life family and band members as well as some of the actors portraying them in the film and the director. This is an informative overview of how and why the film came together so quickly and why it was so important to them to get it right.
- Outtakes: Twelve-minutes of new or alternate scenes are provided here in rough, standard definition quality due to the quality of elements available. There are some interesting additions to the story here, but for the most part these would not have added much to the final product.
- Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer is presented here which is filled with melodrama.
Selena is a satisfying portrayal of a Mexican superstar cut down in her prime. While a bit cheesy and likely sanitized to an extent, it has long been a favorite of many and has finally received a much-deserved Blu-Ray release courtesy of Warner Archive. The presentation here is top notch in the audio and visual department, and the ported over extras provide another hour of content to dig into for hardcore fans. Recommended
Selena can be purchased directly through Warner Archive or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.