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The Da Vinci Code Movie Poster

The Da Vinci Code

Genre: Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: This by-the-book adaptation of the best-selling novel tries hard but can’t stand up to the challenges of such a densely told tale.

Do You Believe?
Buying Into the Code
By Jenny Peters

Beginning with the assumption that virtually everyone who sees Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard’s take on “The Da Vinci Code” has already read the phenomenal best-selling book, watching his film is something of an anticlimax. That is, unless you’re a true believer. For Howard is a smart filmmaker, so he has not deviated from the major moments of the novel, right down to chunks of familiar dialogue. So, if the book posited a theory of Christianity that seemed plausible to you, his film may just work just fine.

Audrey Tatou and Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code
Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code

Howard has certainly cast his religious thriller with a stellar group of actors, anchored by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor visiting Paris who is swept up into multiple murders as a crazed albino monk (Paul Bettany) searches for the Holy Grail. He’s joined by Audrey Tatou (as codebreaker Sophie Neveu), France’s greatest actress of the moment, in a mad run from the French authorities (personified by another top-notch French actor, Jean Reno) as they begin their own quest for the Grail.

Howard has even found a device to visually reveal the historical religious conceits told in the novel, showing them in washed-out visions of Christ’s time, the Crusades, and even the early lives of the main protagonists. It’s a clever way to translate the dense Dan Brown novel into a manageable length (although the film still runs a solid two and a half hours), but somehow overall it falls flat, lacking the necessary anticipation and excitement that is fundamental to a good thriller.

Audrey Tatou in The Da Vinci Code
Audrey Tatou and Sir Ian McKellen in The Da Vinci Code

Perhaps it is the foreknowledge of where the story is going that makes the film seem somewhat plodding, with tons of talking and explaining, or the distinct lack of the tingling frisson that Brown’s book generates in the reading. Or maybe it is just that when all the religious rigmarole from the novel is actually spoken out loud, it becomes very hard to take seriously.

Pinpointing the reason that “The Da Vinci Code” never takes flight as a film isn’t easy; you’ll just have to take it on faith that it never quite soars.

(Updated 08/30/07 NJ)

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