The Da Vinci Code
Ron Howard"s beautifully framed The Da Vinci Code sticks to author Dan Brown"s controversial wild goose-chase thriller pretty religiously. But the movie"s faithfulness to the book poses some inherent problems, including keeping your attention for two and a half hours.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman adapts Brown"s bestselling page-turner to the best of his ability, adding a few variations of his own but following the general plot of the novel. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a professor of iconography and religious art, becomes embroiled in a mystery when the highly respected Louvre curator in Paris is found murdered. Before he died, he was able to leave Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), the curator"s granddaughter, clues through Da Vinci"s works, which eventually lead them on a quest for the Holy Grail itself. Along for the ride is historian Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), a Paris detective (Jean Reno) and an albino monk (Paul Bettany) intent on stopping them. But here"s the kicker: one of Da Vinci"s theories is that Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ were married and had a child, thus creating a "sang real" or "royal bloodline" that must be protected, destroyed or exposed--depending on which side of the fence you"re on. Ah, the stuff great stories are made of.
Upon hearing the casting of Da Vinci, many of the book"s avid fans rejoiced--it is indeed a stellar line up. But it is probably one of the least compelling performances star Hanks has ever turned in. It"s not his fault, really; Langdon is equally as stiff in the book. Same sort of goes for the Sophie character, which is a shame for the lovely Tautou (Amelie), who isn"t able to fully utilize her incredibly expressive face here. Both actors could have been more animated, but they are really the conduits for the more colorful supporting characters surrounding them. Bettany (Wimbledon) does an admirable job as the baddie, a self-flagellating zealot intent on following orders, even if the amiable actor is a bit ill-suited as a villain. But it"s McKellen who steals the show as the acerbic but jovial Teabing, full of conspiracy theories and revelations about the true meaning of the Grail. The veteran thesp has a lot of information to pass on in the film but does so in a very engaging way. When he finally exits, so does the film"s energy.
Therein lies the main problem with The Da Vinci Code: Keeping up the momentum. The novel is chockfull of exposition--pages and pages of historical information, along with passages about the characters" pasts. It"s great to read but to watch it unfold on screen could have been an excruciatingly boring experience. Goldsman and Howard have both admitted having trouble adapting the material, trying to find ways to make the story more cinematic. But the Oscar-winning Howard has proven himself to be a highly capable director and gives Da Vinci Code the necessary touches, interweaving visual re-creations within the narration. Salvatore Totino's glistening cinematography also accentuates the lush sets, while Hans Zimmer's score pumps it up. Still, at two and a half hours, Da Vinci Code drags. It has to--you"ve got all the book"s theories to get out. It's true Brown"s imaginative opus, for obvious reasons, rocked a few boats when it was first published, but it sold millions. It stands to reason the movie will do the same at the box office.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.