May 18 (Bloomberg) — “The Da Vinci Code” purports to solve the greatest mystery in human history. Ron Howard’s movie version of Dan Brown’s mega-selling novel poses another puzzler: How could such a respected and experienced director transform this page-turning thriller into one of the most boring big- budget flicks ever made?
At an excruciatingly long 2 1/2 hours, “Da Vinci” works better as sedative than stimulant. It’s a $125 million turkey — a lifeless, confusing, overly talky film that’s equally harsh on the ears and eyes. Viewers are assaulted with trite dialogue, cheesy flashbacks and cinematography so dark that you feel as if you’re trapped in a cave.
The book is no literary masterpiece — one critic called it a “best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence” — but at least Brown kept the story about the search for Jesus’s family tree moving at a brisk pace. The movie, written by Akiva Goldsman (who collaborated with Howard on the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind”), has a poor sense of timing and little sense of humor or style.
No historical or religious background — and the story is crammed with both — is relayed without excessive details and pontification. Whether we’re learning about the conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei, Leonardo da Vinci or the secretive Priory of Sion, it’s like being trapped in history class with a windbag professor.
Even scenes that should be fascinating — like the one where eccentric scholar Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) explains the hidden meaning of “The Last Supper” to Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) — come across as pedantic set pieces that are no more illuminating than the dim lighting.
“I’m into something here that I can’t understand,” Hanks says.
Me, too, Tom.
Hanks, a two-time Oscar winner who previously worked with Howard on “Apollo 13” and “Splash,” gives what may be his worst dramatic performance as a professor suspected of murdering a curator at the Louvre. He looks uncomfortable from start to finish — maybe it’s that goofy, slicked-back hairdo — and his wooden manner seems more suited to a wax museum than a Hollywood blockbuster.
Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003
The distinguished supporting cast is almost entirely wasted, including Tautou, Paul Bettany as the self-flagellating albino killer, Jean Reno as the grim police captain who stalks Langdon, and Alfred Molina as a sinister bishop. Only McKellen, as the crippled Holy Grail expert, appears to be having any fun. He steals every scene he’s in with his loopy looks and maniacal energy.
The millions who’ve read the book won’t find many surprises. Those who haven’t read it are likely to be confounded by the intricate plot, which starts out as a murder mystery and turns into a search for the long-buried secret of Jesus’s personal life.
Under attack by outraged Catholics and offended albinos, the film’s producers shrouded “The Da Vinci Code” in secrecy and refused to show it to critics until the last minute. That was probably a wise choice. Although it’s bound to be a box- office hit on opening weekend because of the built-in audience, word of mouth may break this code.
“The Da Vinci Code,” from Columbia Pictures, opens worldwide today and tomorrow.