The Da Vinci Code

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Release Date: May 19, 2006
Runtime: 149 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks; Audrey Tautou; Ian McKellen; Jean Reno; Paul Bettany; Alfred Molina

OK, I read “The Da Vinci Code” a long time ago, so the details of the story are not fresh in my head. I remember it being about Prof. Robert Langdon and his teaming up with a crafty French cop to solve a murder that seems to be connected with a conspiracy to hide the secret of the Holy Grail. Along the way, they have to deal with the Vatican, the myth of the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar and Opus Dei, a strict Christian sect.

From what I can insinuate from my recollections, the movie seems to follow the novel pretty closely. It’s about as good as you could have expected from a movie adaptation of an immensely popular, worldwide phenomenon of a novel. Essentially, “The Da Vinci Code,” the book and the movie, is popcorn entertainment for intelligent people, and, taken on that level, it works well. It wraps a fairly standard murder mystery (albeit with the requisite number of twists and turns) with religion and marginal religious sects, which allows the viewer to explore a topic not many people talk about and one that is shrouded in mystery and secrets. That, of course, makes the story more intriguing, and because it hits all the “popcorn-formula” trademarks (chases, revelations, etc.), the recipe is ripe for a massive mainstream entertainment.

Now, specifically, the movie. Ron Howard did an admirable job, about as good as could have been expected. I think I would’ve liked a little more explanation in some instances, but, if I remember correctly, the book goes into a lot more detail, as only a book can. A movie has to sacrifice some of this detail for car chases, and Akiva Goldsman’s script follows suit. The script, however, does explain (quite well, actually) the connection between Opus Dei, the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, etc. This could very easily have been confusing to the average viewer, but Goldsman uses small words and easy language that makes everything a little easier to understand for us lay people. As far as the acting, Tom Hanks proves to be a good choice for the lead role of Robert Langdon. He has an ease on screen that only years of performing can bring and his presence exudes warmth and friendliness. Audrey Tautou, on the other hand, is simply miscast. She is too young for the role, number one, and does not possess the ability to portray the “tough-but-smart” woman that Sophie Neveu requires. I didn’t buy her as I might have, say, Angelina Jolie, or (as much as I hate to say it) Penelope Cruz. She needed to smolder and I would have liked a bit more sexual tension between the two, as is evident in the book. I think the “father-daughter” dynamic that Howard creates between Langdon and Neveu does an injustice to the “popcorn entertainment” mentality of the book and is the wrong approach.

With all that said and done, “The Da Vinci Code” will do just fine to satisfy the masses.  A reasonably intelligent pic, derived from a reasonably intelligent book, which quenches the appetite for blockbuster entertainment that doesn’t make you go deaf.

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