...to The Movie Report, the free e-mail newsletter companion to Mr. Brown's Movie Site:
(Note: If you are a current subscriber and wish to update your mailing address, e-mail me your new information.)
#503 May 19, 2006
M O V I E S
The Da Vinci Code (PG-13) BUY THE:Poster!
| Book on Tape!
| Book on CD!
I am one of the apparent few who have not read The Da Vinci Code, but watching Ron Howard's film adaptation, I can see why Dan Brown's novel became a literary phenomenon. A mystery/thriller rooted not so much in driving action and twisting events than the unraveling of genuinely provocative ideas weaving into even more incendiary conspiracy theories, it appears to be the stuff that would make the literal definition of a page-turner. But what makes riveting reading does not necessarily make for the same in cinema, and in the case of Da Vinci, it would have taken a more imaginative approach and vision not within the reach of Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to make the material come alive as a movie.
It doesn't take a reader of Da Vinci the book to see that Da Vinci the film is a fairly faithful if not downright slavish translation of Brown's text as it plays like reading and not so much watching--a critical error a film that is, in the end, supposed to be a thriller. Granted, the material's main appeal lies in its ideas, but only so much suspense can be generated from a seemingly endless stream of static, talking head exposition sequences, and the fleeting action beats that occur as truth-seekers-on-the-lam Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) are perfunctory at best. Such "thrill" sequences so rote that they never make you forget they are ultimately mere connective tissue to get from one talk location to another--and once the ultimate gist of the film's big theological secret comes clear about halfway through, the talk becomes far less intriguing and simply tedious, giving viewers plenty of time to mull over and easily deduce any further would-be surprises.
The talk and predictability could be a bit more forgivable had there been some sense of style and an inkling of personality, but aside from a typically energized Ian McKellen hamming it up and having a ball as a crippled scholar, there's no character to latch onto and keep anyone involved or interested once its ideological bombshell is dropped. With nothing to work with aside from childhood trauma-related claustrophobia, Hanks shockingly phones it in for a paycheck, and so we never really care if Langdon escapes the shady characters who want him dead or the law enforcement authorities who suspect him of committing murder. Tautou's natural incandescence is swallowed whole by the dour, self-important, overly Brown-reverent tone Howard sets for the entire lumbering two-and-a-half hour run time. (Her character is also saddled with a big reveal that was handled with far more effective dramatic heft in... Kevin Smith's Dogma.) And if such injustices are done to the formidable leads, one can imagine just how criminally wasted the stellar supporting roster of Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, and Jean Reno is.