the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Monday, May 22, 2006

The DaVinci Code

The book sold like wildfire and became a bone-fide cultural phenomenon. The movie rights were snatched up with gleeful abandon. The raging controversy was the sort which studios would kill for. So it all begs the question—how did Sony Pictures screw up such a sure thing?

Unless you've been living in a cave the past few years, you know that The DaVinci Code focuses on Harvard symbology expert Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) as they race around Europe, hunted by the police and a rogue arm of the Catholic Church in a desperate attempt to unravel the clues to the whereabouts (and identity) of the Holy Grail.

While Dan Brown's book is the sort of thriller that keeps you peeling page after page to alleviate the tension in your chest from his dozens of cliff-hangers, (he may not be a master of the English language or by any stretch, a great writer, but the man knows how to move a plot) the movie lumbers along at a snail's pace, bloated with the sort of dialog and exposition that fill scenes the length of entire Shakespearian acts. It's a simple rule—show, don't tell. Apparently screenwriter Akiva Goldsman was sick the day they taught film at film school.

This is a movie bled dry of any sort of suspense and tension, sapped of any sort of energy or fire—controversial or otherwise. Middlebrow director Ron Howard plays the film so safe that it moves like a Superbowl played in quick-drying cement. So intent on being faithful, The DaVinci Code forgets to be entertaining. There is no joy here. No passion. No fun. No pleasure, guilty or otherwise. Not even the sort of vulgar and diabolical anti-religious sentiment that so many Christians are up in arms about. Stop protesting Christians. Sit back and let this dud of a film burn itself out.

Tom Hanks seems wooden and distracted, phoning in what is easily his worst performance in years. Audry Taotou, so enchanting in Amelie, is charmless here. Paul Bettany is hammy. Even Ian McKellen, the only actor to show any sort of pizazz on-screen is not up to his usual snuff. There is no crackling chemistry between anyone.

The film's philosophy resembles it cinematography. I've decided that there are times I like realism over murky artifice. It seems that filmmakers these days like to shoot things in the dark, just because it evokes gloom, even if it makes no sense on screen. For three quarters of The DaVinci Code, characters run around museums and hole up in great mansions, all of which apparently forgot to pay their electrical bills because no one bothers to turn on anything more than a tiny desk lamp or candle. It goes beyond ambiance and just feels silly.

Murder, religious controversy, secret organizations, arcane historical references, conspiracy theories—the movie, like the book, was tailor made to be a rip-snorting yarn. Instead it's a nap-inducing yawn.


Anonymous Robin said...

Great Review! You seem to have nailed it!

10:19 AM  
Anonymous R said...

Aside from the fact that you can drive a truck through the holes in the plot, its terribly written and the acting is absurd. Only Ian MacKellen gets some good lines but the entire thing is so forced between entertainment and a Mormon attempt to discredit Catholicism that its not even a good propaganda film.

Yuk. I think word of mouth will kill it fast.


10:21 AM  
Anonymous jb said...

Yeah, heard the DaVinci Code was a bore.

But hey, at least I heard they played the new Bond trailer before it!

7:52 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

That they did. Very nice...

7:52 AM  
Blogger Grinth said...

I'm really really leaning towards not seeing this movie. I've never read the book, and the movie just holds so little interest for me. Your reviews and others just reinforces that.

I do have to say that my friend and I went down to the theater to see Art School Confidential only to discover every showing was sold out =(...but while we were there we got to witness the christian protestors outside the theater firsthand.

What standing outside a theater jiggling shakers off beat while singing "Glory Glory Hallelujah" is supposed to accomplish I don't know.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...'s the modern version of a Pilgrimage. They can't go barefoot and starving for months to walk to Jerusalem, as the penitents of the Middle Ages did; this is the Modern American version of making yourself worthy in God's eyes.

But darn. No Pilgrim's Badges... (and no Chaucer)

10:37 AM  
Anonymous gabi said...

i agree with your DaVinci conclusion. What a let down after such a gripping book.

2:48 PM  

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