Cesar Chavez

Rated 3.0

Diego Luna's straightforward biopic Cesar Chavez may have a bright future as a high-school history-class movie-day selection, but the filmmaking is merely serviceable. Luna is even less successful at fleshing out his farm-workers' rights activist subject into a fully realized human being. Michael Peña plays Chavez, and while he makes for a compelling centerpiece of quiet decency and moral resolve, he doesn't get to step out from under the halo often enough to make Chavez into a person. Cesar Chavez is presented as a mix of scripted and documentary film, with dramatic recreations of protests, marches and fasts punctuated with real-life footage. That Sunday-morning-civics-lesson approach is very well-intentioned, but it just further dilutes the human drama, and Luna can't resist stacking the deck by making all the central California grape growers sound like Confederate plantation owners.