For the sake of full disclosure, it took two sittings for me to get through Ron Howard’s “The Da Vinci Code” and I felt that was an accomplishment. I was never interested in seeing this movie but finally caught up with it over a three day span. There were several things that pushed me away from it from Tom Hanks’ hideous hairdo too much more glaring flaws. As you can probably guess, the Hanks mop is the least of the film’s unforgivable vices. “The Da Vinci Code” is a sloppy, lazy, and amateurish production from a director that should know better.
“The Da Vinci Code” was based on Dan Brown’s wildly popular 2003 novel of the same name. It reportedly cost $6 million to obtain the rights for the film with Howard signed to direct and Academy Award winning writer Akiva Goldsmith handling the screenplay. Goldsmith is hard to figure out. He’s done some brilliant work including “A Beautiful Mind” and “Cinderella Man” but he’s also written some real stinkers. But even with some questionable work on his resume, I wasn’t expecting the lazy and amateurish results that we get here.
Hanks plays a noted religious symbology professor named Robert Langdon who is doing a series of lectures in Paris, France. He finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly murder inside the Louvre museum. He’s asked to come to the crime scene by a suspicious police captain (Jean Reno). While there Langdon discovers that he has been left a message from the victim that points him towards a mysterious cryptex, a device containing a message that could hold world-changing secrets. He’s joined by Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), a French cryptologist and granddaughter of the victim. The two find themselves in the crosshairs of the French police and a mysterious religious sect, both trying to get their hands on the cryptex.
The big revelation turns out to be a possible death blow to Christianity and the Catholic Church. It’s told through a swirl of long-winded religious conspiracy theories, absurd revisionist history, and anti-Christian nonsense that serves as nothing more than insulting shock value. Most of this is revealed to Robert and Sophie by Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), an old acquaintance of Robert’s and a Holy Grail enthusiast. He believes many of the secrets are hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”, secrets that the cryptex can corroborate. Blah, blah, blah. Honestly it’s all so bloated, preposterous, and boring.
Goldsmith’s script is simply terrible. There’s not an ounce of creativity or subtlety in his storytelling. Everything is so contrived and by the books. There are numerous scenes of tedious exposition meant for nothing more but to fill in the audience on certain bits of information. There’s nothing wrong with that except for the fact they’re so poorly written and we know what they’re there for. This is also a movie loaded with ridiculous conveniences. So many times the story is advanced by a simple convenience that allows our heroes to either escape or find the next clue. Some of them are so lame that I found myself laughing out loud.
I could go on about the writing but I can’t let Ron Howard off the hook either. This thing is an utter mess. It’s a thriller without thrills. The action sequences have no pop whatsoever. The dialogue is as stale and lifeless as you’ll find. His movement from scene to scene feels more like an assembly line production. And his dull and dank color palette gives the movie a dark and unattractive look. I mean neither Paris or London have ever looked worse on screen. Howard has shown in the past he knows how to direct a picture. I have no idea what happened here but a lot of the movie’s problems can be put on him.
I still can’t imagine how “The Da Vinci Code” made over $750 million at the box office. That’s something that boggles my mind. Maybe it was the controversial label that it received and deservedly so. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t because this is a good film. Even without its eye-rolling, anti-Christian shock value, “The Da Vinci Code” is a movie filled with cheap shortcuts, head-shakingly bad dialogue, and poor visual decisions throughout. It’s a shame it turned out this way because there was a good cast in place. But this just shows that you can have a good cast but if you throw them crap the result is going to be crap. Such is “The Da Vinci Code”.