Cesar Chavez Blu-ray Review
To some, the name Cesar Chavez elicits a profound and decisive form of opinion, unfortunately for many others it makes them ask, “Wasn’t he a boxer?” And even if you have heard the name before and you know he was a figure of historical importance, there’s still a better than 50% chance that you’re not really sure why, and you’re embarrassed that you don’t have an answer. It’s a name that was most likely said aloud in your grade school history classes as well, but after you take the test all that info gets sentenced to a life-term in the dungeon of your brain until you pardon it for the “Daily Double” on Jeopardy. However, the honest and brutally sad reason why Chavez’s story does not get the same cerebral shelf space as other famous American activists is due to the lack of a popular movie. Notice I said “popular” not “good.” A historical figure doesn’t even need a good film to become a household name that transcends generations, genders and cultures, it just needs to be something that can run over and over again on HBO, TNT and on DVD in history classes when the teacher was out drinking the night before and didn’t make a lesson plan.
In the same ilk as other civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and maybe even more comparable to union organizers like Jimmy Hoffa, Cesar Chavez fought for better conditions for migrant farm workers who were underpaid and maltreated by their employers on American farms. In the unambiguously titled film CESAR CHAVEZ, director Diego Luna (ABEL) attempts to illustrate how even though the change Chavez was fighting for only affected a relatively small group of people in the country, the ripples of it traveled throughout the entire world.
Unfortunately for the Chavez estate, his family and those who have been clamoring for the man to get the recognition that many feel he deserves, this film will not be the catalyst. Sure it can be used in classrooms simply due to a lack of options, as this is the only viable biopic ever filmed on the man, but it doesn’t have the legs of a HOFFA, MALCOLM X, or even HAIRSPRAY to stretch Chavez’s legacy into the fluid pop-culture consciousness. Those aforementioned films not only succeed in translating the poignant aspects of the characters’ historical significance but they are also very entertaining. That’s where CESAR CHAVEZ falls very short; it’s so concerned with capturing the highlights of Chavez’s life, it forgets to tell an interesting story along with it.
At no time can the portrayal of Cesar Chavez by Michael Peña (AMERICAN HUSTLE) be held accountable for the inherent flaws of the film. No matter the subject or genre, Peña gives it everything he’s got, and he’s got a lot of natural ability to immersive himself into whatever part he’s undertaking, however no amount of talent can create depth and character development that is simply absent from the script. The same goes for the supporting cast, as most of them are used as a “this is your life” type of tool to move throughout Chavez’s story.
The subject matter and the biography depicted in CESAR CHAVEZ is definitely worthy of the time and money it takes to make a feature film, however a worthy story is only a minute part of what makes up a quality biopic. Ultimately, the political bedrock the story is built upon is too one-sided and not nearly powerful enough to overcome the flat story arc and almost negligent depth of characters.
CESAR CHAVEZ BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 2.40:1 Widescreen: It is imperative that a film like this actually looks like a “film.” The subject matter and the time period demands a soft tone, adequate grain and contrast that does not approach a Michael Bay level. The makers of the film pretty much got the look perfect as it represents a somewhat of a documentary feel but retaining the high production value needed to keep it a feature film.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: Dialogue is the foremost priority in a track like this, and it was presented crisp and clear. The other channels do get to take center stage during a few scenes with crowds and gunfire while always keeping the dialogue upfront as well.
The Making of CESAR CHAVEZ (20 min): Not your average, “go-to” behind the scenes feature. This one is pretty in-depth with interviews from the cast and crew and gives a nice feel for how it was on set. Definitely worth watching if you liked the film.