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Da Vinci Code’ stirs little controversy or interest

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” stirred controversy, but Ron Howard’s film version stirs little but bad reviews. “The Da Vinci Code” is now available on DVD from Sony Pictures, bringing the divisive story of the Holy Grail into your home so you can ride around with Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu in Smart Cars while evading the evil forces of Opus Dei and the French FBI.

Say what you will about the story – inevitably, it’s controversial. Everyone had something to say about Brown’s take on the Holy Grail legend: the pope didn’t like it, and the general public ate it up. Also, say what you will about the literary merit of the text itself: English professors didn’t like it, and the general public ate it up.

But the film is something else. Firstly, the superstar and near-winner of three Oscars in a row, Tom Hanks, plays Brown’s normally self-assured protagonist, cryptologist Robert Langdon.

However, this performance certainly won’t be revered in the same way as “Philadelphia” or “Cast Away.” Once the distracting hairstyle is forgotten (readers most likely won’t remember Brown saying that Langdon had a glorified mullet), all that’s left of Hanks’ performance is the surprised look that doesn’t leave his face for the entire film.

Spending the movie painstakingly explaining the mysteries, symbols and conspiracies to both the audience and Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), his counterpart, can get exhausting. But Hanks’ Langdon seems to have spent too much time in his office at Harvard and not enough time in the real world. He simply can’t handle what happens.

Langdon spends most of the time with Neveu searching for clues relating to her grandfather’s murder. Accused of the murder by French cop Fache (brilliantly played by the toughest Frenchman since Robespierre, Jean Reno) and chased by a sinister albino monk named Silas (Paul Bettany), Langdon and Neveu travel from Paris to Britain in search of the truth, uncovering the biggest secret in the history of humanity.

On the whole, the film is decent. Howard is no hack, and he knows how to make a solid film.

However, his pacing is slightly off, and aside from a few exceptions, the acting is wooden and uninspired. The story is interesting but doesn’t translate very well into film. The back-story needed to understand the “Da Vinci Code” and its mythology takes up most of the movie. Conversely, the flashbacks to the time of Jesus and the Middle Ages are interesting, however historically speculative or inaccurate.

The DVD comes with an extra disc that contains a slew of extras, a few of which are worth noting. Most of them are logs of the filming process that take the viewer to the different locations that were used during filming. Parts of the film were shot on location in Paris and London, so these provide interesting insights on how the film was made.

Also, Howard provides the commentary to most of these extras. The sound is available in English and Spanish Dolby 5.1. While other films have exploited this system to its fullest potential, “Da Vinci Code” provides a good sound mix without being groundbreaking.

Overall, this is a decent film with some exciting sequences and an interesting look at what the conspiracy theorists are saying out there. Whether you love the story or hate it, this film is a welcome diversion. “Da Vinci Code” won’t shake your intellect, but it’s exciting, fast-paced and doesn’t ask too much of you.

Watch it with a bowl of popcorn, and leave your Bible on the shelf.