Reviews & Previews - The Da Vinci Code

Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 06:00 PM

The Da Vinci Code

By: S. Tran

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno
Directed By: Ron Howard
Running Time: 149 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content.

Riddle Me This

How do you take an international best seller involving one of the supposed greatest mysteries of all time and turn it into a fairly pedestrian thriller? That's a question only Ron Howard can answer in this lukewarm adaptation of Dan Brown's book.

There are a number of possible explanations for the failure of the film. Maybe the expectations were too high after the sales of the book. Maybe the admittedly academic puzzles in the book just didn't translate well to film. Or maybe after having read the book I had already decided how the characters should look and act and the stars in the film didn't match what I had imagined.

The film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, which makes sense as the plot of book is what drove sales and made Brown a very rich man. Hanks stars as Robert Langdon, a professor of religion and symbology who is drawn into a treasure hunt of sorts while in Paris for a seminar. Unfortunately, Langdon has to try and solve the mystery while being chased by the police and an assassin. Howard does a good job keeping the story on track and has to be given credit for keeping the audience awake for the sometimes involved history lessons.

The problems start with Hanks as the protagonist. In trying to portray Langdon as a very demur, sedate professor, he fails to infuse the character with much charisma or momentum. For all the action and intrigue that surrounds him Langdon walks around as if he's only half awake and seems like he is only mildly interested in the puzzle he is trying to solve. Most people would have been wired just knowing the police were after them, but this seems to barely cause Langdon's heart to speed up. You might argue that in a book the character can express his thoughts to the reader and actors can't always do that but Hanks is a highly paid actor working with an accomplished director so there should be no reason or such a flat performance.

Tautou's performance is also not what I expected after reading the book. Instead of a confident, police cryptologist she comes off as a teenage intern still dealing with old family issues. The innocent charm she displayed in her star making role in Amelie works against her here. When teamed with the semi-conscious Langdon instead of a dynamic pair of adventurers we get an old boring man babysitting his young niece.

Only McKellen has fun with his role. Despite being the oldest character in the film Teabing is the only one who exhibits the energy and curiosity you would expect from someone who is about to solve a riddle that may change the world forever. McKellen literally skips around when compared to Langdon's lumbering academic.

Some of the problems with the movie also have to be attributed to the source material. The book is a thriller but its a thriller with some fairly heavy mental lifting in terms of the material forming the backbone of the mystery. When you read the book you can take your time to study the material and re-read the material if necessary. In a film though you only have one chance to get the information across to the audience. This limitation means that the movie had to skip some of the explanations in the book. As a result when Langdon solves some of the puzzles the solutions seem to come out of thin air as we don't get a chance to hear his thought processes as we did in the book.

In the end the movie cannot overcome the sleepy acting and slow pacing. The elements that made the novel interesting also prevent the film from being an effective thriller, while the limitations of film prevent it from being an effective mystery. While the film should mildly interest you once the secret is revealed you will walk out not remembering much else about it. If you're really interested go check it out. If you have read the book you can wait for the video.


3 stars out of 5.


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