October 27, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

At The Movies: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary:

Da Vinci Code

**1/2

 

Sasha Stone

Mirror Film Critic

 

The page-to-screen story of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is one of the more interesting Hollywood tales of late.  The first act – take a wildly popular novel, you know, the one that no one can stop talking about, and adapt it for the big screen starring Tom Hanks as your hero.  Oscar-winning Ron Howard directs.  What could be more of a slam-dunk for success?  Time Magazine even features the project back in January, during which time Howard was supposed to be helping his film, Cinderella Man get Oscar attention.

Act Two – the film premiers in Cannes and gets laughed at and booed by the audiences there.  Where it used to be a festival in a far off land that had no impact on our movies, really, over here it is now just one more place for critics to see, and review, films earlier.  The critics from major US papers who were in Cannes began furiously writing their reviews.  It was unanimous: the film stunk.  The reviews were so bad, in fact, everyone was starting to wonder if what once seemed like the summer’s biggest hit might, in fact, be the summer’s biggest flop.

Act Three – a happy ending.  Turns out, no one really cares what the critics have to say. Da Vinci made a whopping $30 million on its opening day, which places it at number 13 on the all-time biggest opening day records.  It went on to make $77 million in three days.  Unless the film earns bad word of mouth, it shows no signs of slowing down.

The Da Vinci Code is a film for those who loved the book – and maybe a film for those of us who never read the book and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So what is all the fuss about?  It probably wouldn’t have caused any fuss if it didn’t deal with the biggest rock star the world has ever known, Jesus H. Christ.  And more importantly, Mary Magdalene. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you already know why Mary M. is important, but if you don’t know and you’d like to be surprised, stop reading now.  Did you stop reading yet?  The idea here is that Jesus and Mary were united and created offspring.  In order to preserve the power of the church, Jesus and Mary’s bloodline would have to be erased so no one would ever find out that biggest hoax of all time.

That in and of itself would make this story mildly interesting but it’s the little puzzles the main characters (Hanks as Robert Langdon and Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu) solve that keeps this engine running.  It begins at the Louvre, with a murder and secret messages.  It is through Leonardo Da Vinci that all of the mysteries will reveal themselves.  There are big, bad Catholics and Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion. There is a self-flagellating monk who goes around killing people to protect the secret (Paul Bettany, overdoing it big time).   A lot to pack into just over two hours but Howard and co. manage to stuff it all in there like one big Thanksgiving turkey. 

But you probably want to know – is it a really bad movie?  It isn’t the worst film released this year.  What is surprising is how the critics jumped on the “it’s a flop” bandwagon before the film was tested against audiences.  One wonders what purpose critics serve in writing about films like this.  Either people aren’t reading the reviews or else their desire to see this film overcame their fear that it would be bad.  Even half-baked, their beloved book on the big screen is reason enough to show up.

The characters are mostly one-dimensional.  Ian McKellen is a standout, as usual, as Sir Leigh Teabing.  Hanks seems to be phoning it in, for the most part – and almost looks constipated when trying to figure out what it all means.  Tautou is lovely to look at but not much of an actress speaking in English.

The star of the film, of course, is the book itself. With a film as faithful as Howard’s, those who wish to relive the whole experience can.  But it doesn’t hold up as a film on its own; it needs the book as padding.  In the end, the story itself seems positively silly.  But that is an opinion very much in the minority.

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