Let's start with the strongest point about El Cantante, the joint effort of real-life married couple Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to bring to life the story of salsa legend Héctor Lavoe: JLo turns in a decent performance as Lavoe's wife. There, I said it -- and I know without even looking at any other reviews that a lot of critics will either outright disagree or gloss over her contribution to the film, but this is the closest I've seen her come to fulfilling the promise she showed way back in Out of Sight in 1998, and it's nice to see her in good form. Unfortunately, El Cantante -- at least as the title implies -- is about Lavoe, not his wife, but the movie focuses at least as much on the wife of the King of Salsa as it does on the man after whom it's titled, and that's one of the film's weaknesses.
El Cantante takes the life of a fascinating and complex man and waters it down into a decidedly uninspiring and vanilla biopic that does nothing to push the boundaries of the genre or make us want to see further efforts to bring the tales of famous, troubled singers to life. Part of the problem is that, while Lavoe's story is historically significant to fans of salsa music, and he undoubtedly influenced the genre and contributed to it greatly, there's just not much in his personal life -- at least as it's presented in this film -- that's unique among famous musicians. Troubled relationships with family and friends, drama in his relationship with his wife, Puchi, the inevitable drug addiction (seriously, are there any famous musicians out there who haven't struggled with drug addiction?), and the inevitable trajectory of rise and fall of fame and fortune, just aren't that compelling in and of themselves anymore.