Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code
Release Date: May 19, 2006
· Ron Howard
· Tom Hanks
· Audrey Tautou
· Ian McKellen
· Jean Reno
· Paul Bettany
· Alfred Molina
· Cinema Spider - The Da Vinci Code
by Jonathan Baylis
Published: May 20, 2006
For years I've been saying that Ron Howard is a good director and not a great one. He's not equal to those that some might consider his peers. Howard has not made a "Godfather", a "Raging Bull", a "Schindler's List", or even a "Star Wars". What he HAS made are a series of safe, solid, renters and perhaps one close-to-great movie, "Apollo 13". He's a competent director and decent storyteller, but GREAT directors takes risks, and I don't feel like Howard's really got it in him.
You might argue that a story about the bloodline of a non-virgin Jesus is risky, but let's face it, author Dan Brown's the risky one there, people. Howard's just translating it into a more accessible, bite-sized morsel.
It started off well for me with a scene that contained actors from three of my favorite French films: Jean-Pierre Marielle ("Tous Les Matins Du Monde"), Jean Reno ("La Femme Nikita"), and of course, Audrey Tautou ("Amelie"). (Tom Hanks the Yank ain't too shabby either.) But soon after, the film revealed itself to be a watered-down version of the exciting thriller I had read.
If you're not one of the gazillions that've read Dan Brown's fiction novel, it's basically a clever potboiler about a symbologist (Hanks) and a code-cracker (Tautou) that go on a quest for the Holy Grail when a series of Grail-linked murders transpire, the ultimate death occurring in The Louvre, where Da Vinci's Mona Lisa resides. It seems like some sort of goose chase as the pair must solve one puzzle after the next to reach their elusive goal.
In the book, there is excitement and tension and perhaps most-importantly, TIME, between each goal. Time for the layers of each character to unfold and reveal themselves, making you care about the people behind the adventure. Howard totally flubs this. You never even get the sense that solving these incredibly complex challenges are difficult for these characters. It seemed so easy that Encyclopedia Brown could've found the Grail.
A couple of problems with most book to film adaptations include the loss of internal monologue and the paring down of motivation behind all of the interesting plot devices. This film felt like it was just puzzle after plot point after puzzle with no time for any real drama or suspense. It wasn't boring, and it wasn't a bad movie, but it's by no means a great film. Jon Turteltaub's "National Treasure" is a rip-off of "The Da Vinci Code" and DOES A BETTER JOB OF IT!
The acting's just fine in this movie, with McKellan standing out as usual. I'm so happy when that man chews the scenery in just about every movie he's in. Hanks and Tautou are quite servicable and serve the breakneck pace, but rarely have a slow moment to really show us something. Jean Reno proves yet again that he can play a mean SOB. Also appearing in the film are Alfred Molina, who's role whittled away to nothing and luckiest man in the world, Paul Bettany, who typically, I quite like, but this time around I thought he borrowed his accent from Mandy Patinkin in "The Princess Bride". "My name is Albino Montoya, you killed my Bishop, prepare to die."
Like most Ron Howard films, I give this one a c+. Rent it. (P.S. - for my fellow comic geeks out there, I sat behind Neal Adams during the film. I resisted telling him that Deadman is one of my favorite comics of all time.)