Film Reviews

THE DA VINCI CODE

By • May 16th, 2006 •

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Columbia Pictures / Imagine Entertainment
PG-13 / 147 minutes

QUOTE: I’ll say it: It is anti-Jesus and anti-Catholic. Unintentionally though, it is a recruiting film for Opus Dei. Where do I sign up?

The concept behind “The Da Vinci Code” – that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a daughter – is ridiculous.

(An agonizing question below: if you have the answer for me, please email me at masauu@aol.com.)
What about Jesus’ command, drop everything and “Come Follow Me?” What about The Gospel of Luke (14:25-27)?
25. Now great crowds were going along with him. And he turned and said to them, 26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27. And he who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is a mammoth best seller for one very good reason: you can’t put it down. It is written as a chase. Every very short chapter ends posing a question you need to read further to uncover. Brown makes you want to rush through the chapters.

The SciFi Channel has a 2-hour show, “Cracking The Da Vinci Code” where scholars mock Dan Brown’s “research.”

Ron Howard’s THE DA VINCI CODE is a limp version of the Chase-the-Mystery blockbuster novel. I knew it would suck. Howard doesn’t have the nasty grit – or wit – to delve into the world of religious skullduggery.

And screenwriter Akiva Goldsman? He’s the go-to guy for cleaning up any story for box office numbers. He could sanitize Hitler.

Poor Tom Hanks walks around with a totally confused look on his face. His acting relies on a grimace. And his childlike co-star Audrey Tautou wanders aimlessly in an oversized trench coat searching for her director. Ian McKellen hams it and over-acts. I have a theory about these old character actors. They have years of standing around watching others act and getting the big paychecks. They can tell when they can wrest a movie away by spurting their lines with glee. Directors have too much to do than tone down their performances. Just try to calm them down once they are bestowed with the purely ceremonial title of “Sir.” Unless the title comes with land, serfs, and you can pass your title down to your male heirs, it’s a meaningless, yet pompous, gift for living long.

Harvard professor of iconography and religious art Robert Langdon (Hanks) happens to be in Paris lecturing and signing his newest book when told his dinner date was murdered. The French police take him to The Louvre where a curator has left clues to who murdered him in his own blood. Not only that, he dragged himself around The Louvre leaving more tidbits. Because of the symbolism involved, and the fact that Langdon was in the curator’s date book, Langdon quickly becomes involved.

Police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou) turns up and informs Langdon he is in danger. For some reason, police captain Bezu Fache (Jean Reno), is hell-bent on blaming Langdon for the murder of, surprise, her grandfather! But no, we know who the murderer of curators and nuns is: a crazy, masochist monk is on the loose. He has keys to everything: The Louvre after hours and even a palace estate! He is a penitent-suffering albino named Silas (Paul Bettany) who works for fashionable Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred Molina), a high ranking member of the super-mysterious Opus Dei.

Silas is the most interesting character in the movie. He is the only one who displays passion. Hanks must give us a history lesson on religious symbols and Tautou must look amazed.

Langdon’s tedious plodding through religious symbols is bested by Sir Leigh Teabing (McKellen) who jazzes up the story with flicks of his canes and dastardly smiles. He tells the story of The Holy Grail mystery: The apostles didn’t have a clue the woman Jesus kept kissing [on the mouth] was his wife! St. Paul was duped into believing Jesus was, like him, a celibate! The real person we should be having as church altar centerpieces is the reviled Mary Magdalene! She is The Holy Grail! She is the Unrecognized Heroine of Christianity! Where is her tomb buried and who cares?

Magdalene fled the apostles and Jesus’ family to go to France where she gave birth to his daughter. Somehow, the French royal bloodline – introduced to popular culture by “The Matrix: Reloaded” in the character of Merovingian – was the outcome. Jesus’ bloodline is still with us and Opus Dei is out to kill everyone who has is walking around with his DNA.

The ending, wherein Langdon preaches about faith and belief is a letdown. There is no big finish here. But the film doesn’t end with the revelation about the next person on Opus Dei’s hit list who has been happily toiling among the French people. Langdon must solve the mystery: not where Jesus is buried, but his wife is entombed!

The explanatory flashbacks are horrible and, instead of reading the book at your own pace, plowing through all the twists, double twists and triple twists, leads you to ask of the movie, “Why is everyone pretending to be someone else?” One missed clue and the whole mystery would be lost forever.

My nagging question: If Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” was a commissioned work, what was the reaction when it was finally displayed? Did townspeople ask: “Okay, that’s Jesus’ red-haired wife, what apostle skipped the last supper?” Were people enraged at the symbolism or were they too stupid to figure out that “The Beloved Apostle John” was really Mary Magdelene?


Credits:
Director: Ron Howard
Screenwriter: Akiva Goldsman
Based on the novel by: Dan Brown
Producers: Brian Grazer, John Calley
Executive producers: Todd Hallowell, Dan Brown
Director of photography: Salvatore Totino
Production designer: Allan Cameron
Music: Hans Zimmer
Costumes: Daniel Orlandi
Editors: Dan Hanley, Mike Hill

Cast:
Robert Langdon: Tom Hanks
Sophie Neveu: Audrey Tautou
Sir Leigh Teabing: Ian McKellen
Captain Fache: Jean Reno
Silas: Paul Bettany
Bishop Aringarosa: Alfred Molina
Vernet: Jurgen Prochnow
Remy Jean: Jean-Yves Berteloot

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