Of Mona Lisa and mad monks-A compelling puzzle is “The Da Vinci Code”
It’s tempting to tell those who have read Dan Brown’s book from which “The Da Vinci Code” was adapted to simply avoid the movie so as to dodge the unavoidable, annoying whine. It sounds something like this: “The book is SO much better…” Or, “They left SO much out…”
Here’s an anagram for you dunderheads: “Well, duh!”
Not that the consensus achieved by movie critics could impede the unstoppable hordes of Brown fans who will flock to the film regardless. Popular books make for popular movies. (See the “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” series.) There remains an unassailable movie truth: Do the math-a 560 page novel, filmed to comprehensively include the book’s material, would make for an inhumanely long movie. Ask the expert himself. After weeks spent attempting to write the screenplay, Brown recognized he didn’t have the gift of compression; his first 100 pages depicting the opening scene would have demanded a 20-hour film.
Brown fans should note the writer was thrilled with both Akiva Goldsman’s fascinatingly taut script and director Ron Howard’s keen storytelling abilities. Indeed, “The Da Vinci Code,” while not a nail-biting thriller, is nonetheless a mesmerizing mystery. If you haven’t read the book, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the peril that jump-starts the film with a killing at the Louvre, a self-flagellating killer monk, and the quietly reassuring presence of Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon.
Langdon is summoned to the crime scene at the Louvre by detective Bezu Fache (Jean Reno), who has his suspicions aimed at Langdon. Shortly thereafter, police cryptographer (and granddaughter of the victim) Sophie Neveu arrives. Robert and Sophie (Audrey Tautou) flee under duress and set out to follow clues that will not only reveal the killer, but uncover the clandestine sect Opus Dei. Members of the sect will stop at nothing to protect a religious secret so shocking it could shake the foundations of Christianity-at least the Roman Catholic version of it. Ian McKellen joins the couple’s quest as Sir Leigh Teabing and brings some much-needed wide-eyed camp to the increasing tension.
Conspiracy theories, the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Templar, hidden codes and messages, and precious works of art all play intriguing parts of a well rhythmed, if not frenzied, film. But it does what a good film adaptation should do: Illustrate the best parts of its source material and still manage to make a highly enjoyable film for the uninitiated– especially those for whom seeing a movie is an end unto itself. Christians unprovoked by the film’s heretical assumptions should be sensitive to Catholics who find the film offensive. But, let’s get real. The film is a fictional story based on historical artifacts, which makes “The Da Vinci Code” no more dangerous than “National Treasure.” For considerably less than the cost of the hardcover, and a lot less time consuming than reading “The Da Vinci Code,” watching the movie gives neophytes a voice in this summer’s biggest brou-ha-ha.
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, and brief nudity.