It is as entertaining as it is dubious an approach, as Pasteur gains credit for rescuing his nation from debt after the Franco-Prussian War as well as improving health and wellbeing everywhere. At no point is the curing of milk described. If the relentless prods to remind us of the nobility of the hero’s enterprise and the small-mindedness of bureaucrats and hidebound experts get a bit tiresome (though these days, reminders of why we should care are all too often missing from bio-pics), Muni’s performances never do. Tired of playing half-wit hunkies as in Scarface, Black Fury, and Bordertown, Muni pushed to make Pasteur against the resistance of Jack Warner who had no idea a new prestige genre would be born. Muni’s ability to play resources of wit and brilliance mixed with all-too-human moments of befuddlement, prickliness and even a longing for escape to simplicity, invested his Pasteur and Zola with liveliness beyond the hagiographic tendency of the screenplays.
The quality often lacking from modern bio-pics, for all their warts and all approach, is that as they throw in all the moments of drug addiction, infidelity and mental illness we love so much, they usually leave out the context of achievement that Pasteur works so hard to present. Pasteur isn't as good a film as Zola, for that film's high drama came tied in a ribbon. But you could do a lot worse...like A Beautiful Mind...