The Da Vinci Code

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        Everything surrounding The Da Vinci Code started getting weird long before it opened today. First, there was the outcry from certain Christian groups about the movie. Why there wasn't a big outcry while 60 million people were buying and reading the book, I just don't understand. Then, the movie was held back from reviewers until the last minute which is usually a bad sign, but here, I think, was just to build the suspense. Maybe the reviewers didn't like waiting because they have given The Da Vinci Code some pretty bad reviews. And then, for some reason the big point of discussion was Tom Hank's hair!

      Ok, I won't keep you in the dark any longer. I kinda liked it. The Da Vinci Code is not the greatest movie ever but it's a good movie. I'm not sure what all those other critics were expecting. Rotten Tomatoes lists 114 bad reviews and only 27 good ones. I know I'm a contrarian but, to me, this is an enjoyable movie that does a good job of bringing the bestselling, but not that great, book, to the screen. But it also seems that The Da Vinci Code is producing some wildly divergent reactions. Even in the group that I went with, one person (Brad) said that it was wonderful, while another (Lisi) said that I should give it 'half a bottle' or she would lose all respect for my reviews. Maybe what is happening is what some people thought might happen with the Harry Potter movies, that the young fans might not accept any adaptation of their beloved books. Of course, this didn't happen and the movies are wildly successful. It remains to be seen what will happen with The Da Vinci Code, the movie.

      Is there anyone out there who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code? Well, just in case there is someone who just returned from a mission to Mars, here is a summary of the plot. A curator (Jean-Pierre Marielle) at the Louvre is shot by an albino monk (Paul Bettany) from Opus Dei. The monk is acting under orders from an evil bishop (Alfred Molina) to continue "the biggest cover-up in human history." The curator is a member of a very secret society which is dedicated to preserving and protecting the Holy Grail. Opus Dei is trying to kill off the members of the society including the curator but before he dies he leaves clues, a lot of clues behind. It is up to his granddaughter (Audrey Tatou) who luckily is a cryptographer, and a renowned symbologist (Tom Hanks) to figure out the clues and find the Grail, whatever the hell it is. Tatou and Hanks are suspected of murdering the curator so they take off in search of the Grail with most of Interpol on their trail led by a French cop, Jean Reno. They get help from the world's greatest Grail expert (Ian McKellen) as they hop from old church to old church is search of clues. Oh ya, the albino monk and various other unsavory people are trying to kill them. Anyway, you know. You read the book.

      The plot of The Da Vinci Code follows the book pretty closely with only a few minor changes. It is directed by Ron Howard who, from Night Shift through Cocoon, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and many others, has shown himself to be one of the most dependable directors around. And I think he does pretty well here within the limitations of a book that isn't the most cinematic I can think of. In fact, even though there are lots of chase scenes and murders, there are even more scenes where the characters are standing around thinking and trying to decode the latest clue. This has resulted, I think, in a lot of reviewers saying the movie is boring. I think Howard handles it well, with some flashbacks and visualizations of what the characters are thinking. But it's like the book. The cast is excellent. I don't need to tell you what Tom Hanks has done in the past and he is good as usual. Audrey Tatou may be a revelation to filmgoers who haven't seen her in Amelie or Dirty Pretty Things or A Very Long Engagement. She is shockingly good, and I urge you to put these movies on your Netflix lists. She is the best thing in The Da Vinci Code. Ian McKellen, the great English stage actor, now best known for playing Gandalf and Magneto, gets to have the most fun in his role of the crazed Grail hunter. Rounding out the cast are two of the best character actors around, Jean Reno and Alfred Molina. They are good here as usual but don't really get to shine.

      I do think that there could have been more emotion and energy in The Da Vinci Code. But, I mostly blame the book for this. Even though Dan Brown came up with a cool plot, his characters are a bit flat. And I think that some of this comes through on the screen. If you have seen National Treasure (also a must for your Netflix list), with Nicholas Cage et al. searching for the lost treasure of the Masons is very similar to The Da Vinci Code. National Treasure has all the markings of a 'B' movie, but it rises way above that because, beyond the cool plot and all the clues, you care about the characters and feel their excitement as they hunt for the prize. In The Da Vinci Code, the characters are grinding it out. Only Tatou and McKellen really break out and hit the audience with a lot of emotion. Jean Reno, who usually exudes emotion, is very restrained. And Hanks, while he is good as always, is saddled with a pretty uninteresting character, and there isn't a lot of chemistry built into the relationship between him and Tatou. At the end of National Treasure, you can't help but smile. Even though the plot makes no sense, it's just a lot of fun. The Da Vinci Code is, of course, taken more seriously but it really shouldn't be. As Tom Hanks said in an interview,the plot is a bunch of hooey. So, don't take it too seriously. All the hype has made the expectations way too high. The Da Vinci Code is an OK movie. Ya gotta see it. And I thought Tom Hanks hair looked good.