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The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Rated PG13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, and Ian McKellen

Rating:
**
out of
*****

When a movie is hyped as much as The Da Vinci Code, rarely does that movie live up to it all. When the book that the movie is based on is one of the most controversial books of all-time, there's increased pressure to appease those that have read the book. In the case of The Da Vinci Code, additional factions of people will expect the film to either soften the book's storyline or remain faithful to the original's supposedly shocking revelations about the Christian religion. What that really means is that a lot of people are going to see this film and be disappointed. Disappointed not about what the film is but in what it isn't.

For those that have managed to avoid the plotline, a curator at the Louvre is shot but, before he dies, he manages to leave a string of crude symbolic clues in the museum that will reveal his killer. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), an American expert on religious symbols, is called in by the police to help with the investigation. A young police detective, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), warns Langdon that he's being framed for the murder and helps him follow the clues to find the real killer. Along the way, they stumble upon the trail of the Holy Grail. Now, this is not the Holy Grail of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This Holy Grail is linked to a secret that could bring down Christianity.

Although Langdon and Sophie are searching, at least initially, for the killer, there's no urgency to do so for the viewer. His identity is revealed in the first scene. There's no impending doom facing anyone if the quest isn't completed. Proving Langdon's innocence never seems to be a main issue as his alibi is airtight. (He was standing in front of 1,000 people giving a lecture when the murder occured, so that'd be no problem to prove.) So what's propelling the story? Not much.

Most of the plot devices are clue-based, so their true significance is lost to anyone other than religous history buffs, puzzle nuts, or those that have read the book. It also doesn't help that the clues are mentioned once and then solved, so the audience doesn't even get a chance to ponder their potential meaning. One clue leads to an explanation of the significance of the clue, which leads to the next clue, which leads to another explanation. And so on. It's great for a page-turning book but it makes for a lousy movie. Even when there's actual on-screen action, it's in no way gripping or satisfying. It's so devoid of anything attention-grabbing that it almost seems intentional. The religious ramifications of the book are also watered-down. They still carry some weight and remain thought-provoking, but the movie doesn't compel you to care one way or the other. When the movie comes to its conclusion, it doesn't even make a stand about what it's trying to say. It straddles the fence in a way the book didn't. So the end result is disappointment. If I hadn't read the book, I'd wonder what all the fuss is about.

Tom Hanks, who usually brings an affable presence to any role he plays -- even when it's in a crappy movie -- comes off as only slightly more lifelike than the digital version of himself that appeared in The Polar Express. Ian McKellen, as Sir Leigh Teabing, is the movie's sole bright spot. His humorous turn as the eccentric expert on all-things-Grail provides a much needed breath of fresh air to the movie's stale proceedings.

Stay home and read the book again.

Trivia: To protect both the fabric of the building and the works of art it contains, the production's use of the Louvre Museum in Paris was carefully controlled. For instance, no equipment was allowed inside the Louvre during the opening hours, so filming took place at night. Since the crew were not permitted to shine light on the Mona Lisa, a replica was used to film instead. No blood or mysterious writings were permitted on the wooden floor of the museum so these scenes were shot at Pinewood Studios outside London. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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