Where's Leonardo??  (Di Caprio, not Da Vinci)

Popcorn Movie Review: "The Da Vinci Code"

By Omar P.L. Moore/May 18, 2006

Oh dear.  Controversy.  Protests.  Threatened boycotts.  Lawsuits.  And all for a film whose hype is not justified by the contents of its two hour, 33 minutes of running time.  Yes, unfortunately "The Da Vinci Code" disappoints, and one can't help feeling that in another director's hands it could have been the film it deserved to be.

The story about the search for sacred figures through the breaking of an elusive code and the Catholic Church does not play well on the big screen, and its running time feels interminable, far longer than the three hour-fourteen-minute "Titanic", in which Leonardo Di Caprio spoke a lot of bad screen dialogue while getting to be the adoration of every young woman's heart.  It appears that many of the women in the audience may welcome a trip back to "Titanic" approximately 45 minutes into "The Da Vinci Code". 

None of the cast is to blame - they are all fine actors in their own right, starting right at the top with Tom Hanks and continuing with Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina and Ian McKellen, who saved this film from tanking mid-way through -- the fault for this underwhelming experience at the movies lies with director Ron Howard.  Mr. Howard, a director of strong ingenuity and visual flair in such films as "A Beautiful Mind", "Cinderella Man" and "Apollo 13", seems overmatched both by Dan Brown's book, and the cinematic arc of the material.  There isn't anything compelling enough in the narrative or in the general pacing of the film to hold its story together.  And this reviewer has not read the book.  It would therefore be difficult to say that one who has read the smash hit novel by Mr. Brown cannot find this film anything less than lukewarm.

There is something very rote, too cold and mechanical about the direction and the pacing.  From the start, the sinister music and tone creeps into the film and stays throughout.  In nearly every scene at least one character is shot in near silhouette, or at least with a shadowy look on one side of the face.  Tom Hanks plays Professor Robert Langdon, a symbolist whose skill is deciphering symbols and their meaning.  In an admittedly impressive opening at a Q and A and lecture he runs down interpretations of some of the world's most famous and infamous symbols.  There is a touch of fascination with this scene, but very little rivals it.  Audrey Tatou plays a cryptologist from France, and has some good dialogue, although not nearly enough.

Those who have read the book already know what's coming on screen, but they will be disappointing with how it comes.  One wonders whether Steven Spielberg would have succeeded where Mr. Howard has failed.  The weight of the film's subject matter would have been amplified with power and effect, but under Mr. Howard, the frenetic hammer of violence is one of the few things that makes us sit upright.  After all, the violence is gruesome at times, enough to merit an "R" rating.  

Even in the film's flashbacks, which seem distant and unremarkable, there is a distinct lack of emotional weight to the characters and their backstories.  The script plods on up until the end, which has a few good touches, but ultimately not enough to merit a memorable experience in the theater.


Copyright 2006.  All Rights Reserved.

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