The Da Vinci Code
2006: Ron Howard
PG-13: 149 minutes
Vault Rating: 7
The big release this week is “The Da Vinci Code,” Ron Howard’s OK treatment of Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller.
Vault is not often placed in the position of recommending huge A-Title releases and I don’t think you need me to tell you about them, but there are several strong elements in Da Vinci, so it makes the cut.
First is Dan Brown’s clever story that combines symbology, myth and history with beautiful European locations to make a tasty thriller about a secret war within the Christian church. What that war is about — and if you are not already aware I cannot tell you — is the answer to the puzzle/code of the title. Suffice to say that the Monty Python troupe would have had a blast with this.
Second is Howard’s direction. Ron Howard has made a career of making above average to excellent films, the exception being the horrific Jim Carrey vehicle, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” back in 2000. DON’T get me started on that one. Here, though, Howard’s usual strong choices and style are put to good use, balancing a need to explain things while keeping up the pace.
Third is a strong cast featuring the reliable Tom Hanks as Dr. Robert Langdon, the lovely Audrey Tautou (you remember her from the wonderful “Amelie”) as French Agent Sophie Neveu and a supporting cast of Ian McKellen (Sir Leigh Teabing), Jean Reno (Captain Bezu Fache), Paul Bettany (Silas) and Alfred Molina (Bishop Manuel Aringarosa).
Langdon’s expertise in symbology draws him into a bizarre murder at the Louvre, where, among some of the world’s most precious artifacts, a dying curator manages to pass along coded clues to one of the world’s great secrets. Langdon and Neveu, a police cryptographer (I suppose the Parisian police just happen to employ a big brain cryptographer.) who is related to the victim, get the clues left at the murder scene and are set on a wild chase to discover and protect a secret and simultaneously clear their names.
Now, some friends of mine have told me that they’ve heard from their pulpit that this film is full of nonsense and should be avoided. Well, I just think that’s stupid. Yes, the film is full of historic hokum and yes, some large elements of church doctrine are called on the carpet, but, you know, it’s a movie. Movies are always full of hokum. That’s the fun of it. So, if you’re a person of faith, please don’t equate a story by Dan Brown and Ron Howard with The Gospel.
By film’s end, though, even my friends of faith engaged in lively conversation on topics historical and religious. That is the fun of Da Vinci. Dan Brown has concocted a story that I wish I had concocted. It is full of enough true things and possibly true things that the upshot of the story is a lot of fun to think about.
Oh, the film is a bit overwrought in a couple of places, but Da Vinci has to take itself seriously or the movie just wouldn’t work. Also, the movie plays pretty well having read the book. Vault, being in on the secret, was able to look maybe more deeply into the film, and that was fun.
On the whole, Da Vinci works out pretty well; well enough that if you aren’t going to rent the outstanding documentary “Unknown White Male” (VR: 8, full review to follow) or perhaps the 2003 Gael Garcia Bernal drama/romance “Dot the I” (thanks for the recommendation, Rob, of Philipsburg), then you’d be well served by “The Da Vinci Code.”
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