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Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 05/18/2006

Cracking 'The Da Vinci Code'

By Jen Chaney

It's the most controversial film of the year, the thriller that will save Hollywood from its box-office doldrums and the picture that elicited snickers from those snobby Cannes critics. At least that's what you've heard. But what's the real deal on "The Da Vinci Code"? I attended a preview screening last night and will now attempt to uncover the truths that you, the movie-going public, deserve to know.

Is the Movie as Good as the Book?
This question assumes that the book, which sold approximately 80 jillion copies, actually was good, which is where I beg to differ. The story -- Intriguing. The prose -- Well, let's just say I've read Bazooka bubble gum wrappers with a better mastery of the language. (Yeah, it's fun being in a book club with me.) As to whether Ron Howard's film essentially tells the same story as the novel, that's a yes. With a few variations (for some reason, the onscreen Robert Langdon suffers from claustrophobia), the plot points remain the same.

Is Tom Hanks's Hair Really as Freaky as I Think It Is?
Yes and no. The swept-back professorial look doesn't suit him, and it adds to the sense that he probably should not have been cast as Robert Langdon. After watching the movie for a while, though, you get used to it. And, really, wasn't his 'fro in "Splash" far more distracting?

Will "The Da Vinci Code" Keep Me on the Edge of My Seat?
Not unless you park your bottom on the edge of your stadium-seat before the movie starts. This, I think, is the film's greatest flaw. It's supposed to be a thriller, but even with an interesting storyline, the pace is too slow and the tone is much too subdued. This is supposed to be a scavenger hunt for the Holy Grail, not a 100-level religion class. Even the car chase scene is a bit of a snore.

Don't You Have Anything Positive to Say, You Heartless Media Wench?
Hmmm ... let's see .... I enjoyed Sir Ian McKellen's delicious turn as Leigh Teabing. (He's one of the few actors who actually appears to be enjoying himself.) And Paul Bettany makes a convincingly creepy Silas. Oh, and I chuckled to myself every time a subtitle for a certain French obscenity that most people know quite well appeared on the screen.

Is All the Controversy About the Movie's Religious Themes Really Justified?
Religion is a very personal matter, and people have every right to be offended by something that contradicts their spiritual beliefs. Personally, though, I don't see what all the fuss is about. I doubt that many view "The Da Vinci Code" story -- in ink or on celluloid -- as much more than escapist fiction. People whose curiosity is piqued by its suggestions about Jesus can certainly do research and make up their own mind whether the story's premise is true. And the people who actually take everything they see in the film at face value are probably the same folks who still think "The Blair Witch Project" is real. ("I know a guy who knows someone who went to Montgomery College with Heather. I swear!")

So Should I Go See This Movie or Not?
Far be it from me to tell you what to do. Truth is, you'll probably go see this movie regardless of what any critics say. But if you want to save some money, stay home and read the New Testament while watching "National Treasure." You'll get the action and the Biblical references, all in the comfort of your own home.

-- Jen

By Jen Chaney  | May 18, 2006; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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Tom Hanks character is claustrophobic in the book too. You have a lot to say about the movie despite the fact you obviously didn't read the book that closely.

Posted by: SkipJack | May 18, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I think his claustrophobia is laid out in Angels and Demons...very traumatic for him...

Posted by: GwenMarieDC | May 18, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah it is detailed in A&D, but referenced several times in DaVince Code (pretty much every time he gets in a elevator)

Posted by: Bob | May 18, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Best Review EVER!!!

Can I be in your book club?!?

Posted by: Me | May 18, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Or go see National Treasure for FREE at the National Archives Experience tonight at 7pm or Saturday at noon!

Posted by: Tim | May 19, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I saw it opening night. I was very anxious to see it. I did not read the book, but talked a lot to people who did.
I felt the movie was hard to follow. Photography was wonderful. Not a real thriller but a couple of "hold onto your seat" Loved the surprises of who was good and who was not. Truly didn't expect Lee, the cripple to be someone except a wise historian. I was fooled.

Sue 6:48pm May 20, 2006

Posted by: Sue Garnhart | May 20, 2006 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I agreed with your review except the line about people having the right to be offended if somebody disagrees with their religious beliefs.

Get over it - there is enough of that kind of intolerance in the world today.

How about saying there are many ways to approach the topic and it is OK to disagree with the ideas, but not OK to be offended, indignant, petulant, violent, etc. when somebody holds a differing view?


PS: I saw the movie last night and have to say the way it was filmed was excellent. It will especially appeal to those who have spent much time in Paris. However, I agree with your observation that it was fairly slow paced.

In spite of that, I think it is worth going to if for no other reason but to get people thinking about philosophy & religion.

Posted by: More Tolerant than Thou | May 21, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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