Picks and Pans Review: The Chosen

updated 05/24/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When will Rod Steiger get another role he can sink his teeth into? This adaptation of Chaim Potok's best-selling novel offers him—and audiences—barely an hors d'oeuvre. It's the story of two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn during World War II. One, played by teen heartthrob Robby Benson, is the son of a rabbi. The other, Barry (Fame) Miller, is the son of a Zionist journalist. Their friendship is complicated by their respective fathers' opposing views on a Jewish homeland. The rabbi, played by Steiger, is against it; the journalist, Maximilian Schell, is for it. But the movie has no focus. One minute it's concerned with the friendship between the boys, which is so sweet as to have homosexual overtones. Next we see horrifying documentary footage of Nazi concentration camps. Then the movie lurches back to a spotty portrayal of the fathers. Steiger looks terrific in his white beard and earlocks, but the only time the movie comes to life is when he or Schell is on the screen, and that's not often enough. Benson is horribly miscast as the pious rabbi's son; his dewy-eyed sincerity is laughable. This movie's failure is especially shameful since, as the book proved, the subject is rich and fascinating. (PG)

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