Metascore
51

Mixed or average reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 26
  2. Negative: 2 out of 26
  1. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Mar 26, 2014
    83
    In the title role, Michael Peña has a no-nonsense fire: He captures how Chavez borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr. but also fueled the struggle with his own improvisatory brilliance.
  2. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Mar 27, 2014
    75
    Enlivened by a strong cast, Cesar Chavez is a straightforward and inspiring account of a noble man.
  3. Reviewed by: Bill Zwecker
    Mar 27, 2014
    75
    It’s Pena’s quietly powerful interpretation of Cesar Chavez the man that makes this movie work so well.
  4. 75
    Like "42," Cesar Chavez lacks the budget to feel truly epic in scope. The violence is scattered, shocking and personal, the struggles within the union muted but the outrage — is palpable.
  5. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Mar 27, 2014
    70
    It never quite takes off in a stirring, inspirational way, but moves steadily forward in solid fashion.
  6. Reviewed by: Stephen Whitty
    Mar 27, 2014
    67
    It's a clear and moving story, although the messier edges of the man have been smoothed out, and some of the victories may have been exaggerated to provide a happier ending.
  7. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Mar 27, 2014
    63
    The performances are solid but I walked out of the theater thinking I might have been equally edified and entertained reading the man's Wikipedia entry.
  8. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Mar 27, 2014
    63
    That rare biopic that’s shorter and swifter than it should be. This turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.
  9. Reviewed by: Steve Macfarlane
    Mar 25, 2014
    63
    Not unlike Michael Peña's prior supporting roles, Chavez is marked by an explosive anger kept under a cherubic, sweet-natured mask, providing the surprise lacking in the story's text.
  10. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Mar 27, 2014
    60
    What the film struggles to depict, committed as it is to the conventions of hagiography, is the long and complex work of organizing people to defend their own interests. You are invited to admire what Cesar Chavez did, but it may be more vital to understand how he did it.
  11. Reviewed by: A.A. Dowd
    Mar 26, 2014
    58
    What Cesar Chavez critically lacks is a unique, complicated, or personal perspective on its world-famous subject. As is often the problem with portraits of influential firebrands, the film never quite sees past the movement to the man leading it.
  12. Reviewed by: Bilge Ebiri
    Mar 28, 2014
    50
    The ultimate effect of this film, directed by actor Diego Luna, is curiously cold — it never transcends the hagiographic nature of its material, despite a talented cast and a compelling subject.
  13. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Mar 28, 2014
    50
    Biopics about civil rights icons are usually staid affairs. Cesar Chavez, directed by Diego Luna, is no exception.
  14. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    Mar 27, 2014
    50
    It seems like a waste of talent, but worse still, Cesar Chavez squanders an opportunity to revisit a story worth retelling.
  15. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Mar 27, 2014
    50
    The man was not, by most accounts, pedestrian. In trying to follow so closely in his footsteps, the film, however, is.
  16. Reviewed by: Peter Keough
    Mar 27, 2014
    50
    Plays more like an exercise in nostalgia than a dramatic re-creation of a triumphant fight for civil rights.
  17. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Mar 27, 2014
    50
    The film is always a little bit at a distance, almost involving, always good enough to make us root for it, but rarely better than average.
  18. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Mar 26, 2014
    50
    It’s too busy with feel-good slogans like “Si Se Puede.” The slogan may be nice, but it’s meaningless. So is the movie.
  19. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Mar 26, 2014
    50
    Cesar Chavez, though respectful and illuminating, never rises to the inspirational level of its titular subject.
  20. Reviewed by: Jessica Kiang
    Feb 13, 2014
    50
    It’s a competent, unobjectionable history lesson but Cesar Chavez’ legacy needs a more inspired and inspiring telling if it's to get the exposure this crusading figure deserves.
  21. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Feb 13, 2014
    50
    Neither Pena nor the pic itself delivers the necessary dynamism, strained by a modest budget and too few extras to sufficiently re-create a movement that found strength in numbers.
  22. Reviewed by: Drew McWeeny
    Apr 18, 2014
    42
    The script by Keir Pearson is admirably restrained in many ways, but it is also almost completely devoid of anything that would give the film the feel of actual life.
  23. Reviewed by: Jordan Hoffman
    Mar 27, 2014
    40
    Just as the migrant workers of California deserved better treatment from their bosses, the man who won the labor dispute deserves better treatment than this film.
  24. Reviewed by: Nathan Rabin
    Mar 27, 2014
    40
    Chavez was a man of intense, overriding passions, his biopic feels strangely academic and detached, an unimaginative, straightforward catalog of his greatest hits and most historic campaigns that provides precious little insight into his inner life.
  25. Reviewed by: Godfrey Cheshire
    Mar 28, 2014
    38
    It's reverential rather than revealing, predictably admiring where it needs to be nuanced and challenging.
  26. Reviewed by: Inkoo Kang
    Mar 25, 2014
    30
    The careless diminishment of every other character that isn't Chávez — including wife Helen, played by an utterly wasted America Ferrera in a grape-sized role — might be worth overlooking if the film provided any insights into its subject.
User Score
5.2

Mixed or average reviews- based on 13 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. Mar 29, 2014
    2
    Director Diego Luna took the under-told, inspiring, and compelling story of one of America's most important labor leaders and created a dull, cliche, and poorly crafted film. Simply put, Cesar Chavez deserves better than this. It's saddens me to think this will be the image that many people first see of him.

    Don't waste your money.
    Full Review »
  2. Apr 2, 2014
    6
    If you're too young to remember the '60s grape boycott, this biopic will put it in perspective. Chavez is the labor organizer who led California farm workers in their 5-year fight for fair conditions and a living wage. The fact that he was a mild-mannered advocate doesn't help this film, because it's lacking in the fervor that would have made it rousing or at least moving. The conditions are never fully explored and even the villains aren't particularly fleshed out. Michael Peña is fine in the lead, but director Diego Luna never elevates this potentially powerful story above a competent history lesson. Full Review »
  3. Mar 28, 2014
    8
    Diego Luna's take on the Cesar Chavez story offers a gripping look at the struggle of the National Farm Workers Association and the many obstacles that beset them. While the story isn't particularly hard-hitting when it comes to Chavez's personal relationships, star Michael Peña shines as the leader of a modern American movement, with the film being presented in an accessible and honest manner. Full Review »