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The Da Vinci Code /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany

Directed by: Ron Howard

Produced by: Dan Brown, Todd Hallowell, Brian Grazer

Written by: Akiva Goldsman

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks star in Columbia Pictures' The Da Vinci Code

Audrey Tautou in Columbia Pictures' The Da Vinci Code

Paul Bettany in Columbia Pictures' The Da Vinci Code

     Given the negative critical response to Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, it’s slightly peculiar that the public has been so surprised in regards to the abundance of loathing reviews that Ron Howard’s film adaptation has inspired. Superfluous religious-controversy regarding the material aside, the story is virtually impossible to respect; it was poorly written and conceived in Brown’s novel and has been reworked for the screen by writer Akiva Goldsman with the same lack of quality.

      The plot is virtually impossible to explain in a short synopsis, and given its reliance on cheap-surprises, it is probably better for the sake of potential-viewers that I not go into detail about here. I will say that the narrative involves protagonist Harvard Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), who is recruited by the French Police to investigate religious motivations behind a mysterious murder at the Louvre. Sooner than later, Robert begins to discover that the murder is actually a part of an elaborate race to find The Holy Grail, involving Opus Dei, historical-cover ups, and men of faith deceiving one another left and right. The movie’s many twists and turns, like those in the book, are often tiring, but there are still a few that may enthrall viewers who are not familiar with the story.

     For the most part, Howard’s film suffers from the exact same problems that its source material did, but makes up some ground in terms of its ability to craft thrilling action sequences and develop interesting characters. The first ninety minutes of The Da Vinci Code are actually very well-done; Howard is more proficient at setting up both the plot and the players in it than Brown was. However, seeing that screenwriter Goldsman copied the plot almost verbatim from the book, the third-act seems to drag on forever (the movie runs a whopping 149 minutes) and the concluding dialogue is often more laughable than it is triumphant.

     While I am unable to forgive several of The Da Vinci Code’s flaws, I must defend the studio’s choice to cast Tom Hanks in the lead-role. Filmgoers, especially those who feel a tie to Brown’s novel, have been criticizing the decision ever since it was announced, but Hanks is actually rather good as Robert Langdon. General objection to the move concerns Hanks’ image—when one reads The Da Vinci code, one is not inclined to think of the actor as the character—but his solid performance justifies his participation in the project. Not only is Hanks able to work well with Howard due to their past history (Splash, Apollo 13) making movies together, but he also is able to make Robert a more relatable protagonist than as depicted in the book. He recites his fair-share of tacky dialogue and this occasionally makes his acting seem cheesy, but it has the same effect on that of his co-stars, Audrey Tatou in particular. Had screenwriter Goldsman cleaned up this aspect of Brown’s writing in his script, then perhaps the film-version of The Da Vinci Code would’ve been of a better than merely average.

     On the whole, I prefer Howard’s Da Vinci Code to Brown’s original. However, this review marks one of the few occasions in which my critical opinion doesn’t matter. No matter how distasteful the material may be and no matter how much controversy it may stir up amongst devout followers of the Catholic Religion, the movie will go on to—like the novel—make millions, if not billions of dollars of revenue. In terms of delivering cheap thrills and making viewers feel like they’re intelligent for being able to follow a rather intricate plot, The Da Vinci Code represents the full-package. As for me: I’m still waiting for the next American Classic to grace American Silver-Screens.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (5.25.2006)


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