By Lawrence O'Toole
Updated July 26, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Alan Paton’s seminal novel of apartheid in 1940s South Africa receives a sanitized and overly sentimental treatment, trivializing the book’s relentless power. The story of two fathers’ anguish — following the killing of a white landowner’s (Richard Harris) son by the son of a black pastor (James Earl Jones) — remains as potent as ever. But nearly every big emotional moment in Cry, the Beloved Country is either italicized by slow motion (made even more intrusive on video) or pointed up by a gushy John Barry score, and Jones’ static performance doesn’t help. Only Harris’ understated work allows the narrative to speak eloquently for itself. C