Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

It's sold 40 million copies, cheesed off the Catholic Church, prompted copyright battles in British courts and sparked more interest in the Holy Grail than Indiana Jones and Monty Python put together. It is "The Da Vinci Code" , and the movie is sticking with the spelling error (it's actually "da Vinci") that made author Dan Brown a super-duper-quadruple squillionaire.

And honestly? It's not THAT bad. OK, it's pretty bad. But there's a lot worse out there (Johnny Knoxville pretending to be retarded in "The Ringer", anyone?). I show my easily-pierced bleeding heart here when I say I feel desperately sorry for everyone involved in "The Da Vinci Code" movie - because it was never going to live up to the hype. And to give them credit, they do the best with what they've got.

Ron "All-American" Howard has given us a faithful but uninspired adaptation. The cuts he's made only serve to reduce any depth of character in his two leads - Tom Hanks as Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon, and Audrey Tautou as French cryptologist Sophie Neveu. Together the pair plod through the 2-and-a-half hour running time, doggedly putting together the clues that will prove Mary Magdelene married Jesus Christ and bore his child, all the while running from a crazed albino monk and a secretive Catholic sect. I'm actually glad they left the book's romantic tension out of the film, as sadly these two have zero chemistry and it would have been a bit creepy.

Paul Bettany is spooky as Silas, the character single-handedly setting back the cause of those suffering albinism by 400 years. His violence - to others and himself - makes you cringe. But Sir Ian McKellen is the cream of the crop as Grail historian Leigh Teabing, injecting some much needed life into the second half of the film. You honestly could give that man the worst role in the worst film ever (Johnny Knoxville's part in "The Ringer", anyone?), and he'd still make it gold.

But there's some nice things in this film - the flashback and explanatory sequences are a good use of digital imaging, and the story does lend itself to some truly wonderful locations, which Ron Howard's wide lens camera captures.

Critics everywhere have panned this film - just check out handy reference guide Rotten Tomatoes. I can't go that far. Most people will go and see this film to see how the novel translates to screen, and it's worth it for that reason alone. I just hope the movie doesn't stop the general public debating the historical and religious questions that book inspired them to ask.

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