Title: The Da Vinci Code
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Director: Ron Howard
Screenwriters: Akiva Goldsman
Starring:Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno
Some of my best friends have read and enjoyed The DaVinci Code, and I will do my best not to hold that against them, though it will be difficult. Assisting me will be the fact that I have only seen the astoundingly stupid movie — maybe the book isn’t this dull, this lame, this chintzy. Considering everything I’ve heard about Dan Brown’s prose, I doubt it.
For one thing, the extent to which you find The DaVinci Code “controversial” is directly proportional to the fervor of your religious convictions — specifically, your degree of adherence to mainstream Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. To a cheerful nonbeliever like myself, its theory that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child, and that powerful men within the Catholic Church would kill to protect this secret, is profoundly shrugworthy, seeming no more or less farfetched than the official Church line. As such, the film’s awed, portentious tone is hard to swallow, the equivalent of having to tolerate someone’s hissy fit over a minor, barely relevant detail.
Compounding the problem is the plot’s laughable construction, which consists of our heroes furiously solving anagrams and running from location to location (the locations are sometimes announced with lines like “I have to get to a library, fast!”) while nothing at all happens, until the film eventually stops dead to have the entire content of the story explained to us in an extended expository argument. On the rare occasion that a revelation is made in a different context, it’s something that we’ve long figured out, prompted by something hilariously manufactured — I love the pertinent newspaper headlines lovingly laid out for stalwart Professor of Religious Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to find in one of the climactic scenes so that he can at last Put the Pieces Together.
The film was written by Akiva Goldsman, otherwise known as “my favorite person in the world,” which of course means that the dialogue ranges from bland to alarmingly stupid. Two of the main characters — Hanks’ Langdon and Ian McKellen’s Sir Leigh Teabing — are world-class scholars, presumably formidable intellects, but neither can muster one interesting turn of phrase or a single worthy use of the English language. Not even McKellen’s penchant for making ordinary words sound Shakespearean avails the screenplay, which takes as its duty to be as artless as possible.
A lot of time is spent on chases, stand-offs and shoot-outs, and The DaVinci Code gets stupider, to the extent that’s possible, when it has to resort to action conventions. My favorite moment was when our protagonists make an impressive offscreen escape — one of those scenes where the bad guys are sure to blow the heroes’ cover, but don’t look now, they’ve somehow disappeared — and the film dramatically flashes back to show them surreptitiously sneaking out, bent low to the ground, and getting into a car. Geniuses, these guys.
I can’t imagine what value the movie would hold for someone who is familiar with the group. It lamely putzes around for over an hour before dumping the Big Secret in our lap in a furious 15-minute lecture complete with computerized visual aids, and then proceeds to unload another hour of tedious action that leads nowhere. This is event filmmaking at its most insufferable, assuming that the title will sell the tickets, and that any complaints will be directed to the author of the book. Well, the book sounds terrible in its own right, but it doesn’t excuse the movie.