Saturday, May 20, 2006


Well, it was Friday night and I didn't have anything better to do, so when my neighbor said he felt like going out to a movie, I said sure, I'll go along,

Oh, the shame of it. I paid money to see The DaVinci Code.

And hey, here's a surprise: It sucks.

By sucks, I mean it will crush your spirit, and allow time to simultaneously stand still (while you're stuck in a theater viwing this inert object) and move forward (in a CGI-rendered sequence of people doing great things and having wonderful times, all things you are not doing because you're stuck in a theater). Still, it will make you ask profound spiritual questions, such as, "Jesus Christ, is thing ever going to end?"

The premise, in case you haven't heard, is that...ah, man, do I have to go into this? Blah, blah, murder, blah, blah, conspiracy, blah, blah Opus Dei...Let me save you the trouble. It turns out Audrey Tautou is the living heir of Jesus Christ. This is presented as a stunning revelation as the movie finally approaches an ending, but any viewer with the IQ of a pillow will have guessed it by...Well, I was going to say anyone could have guessed it in the first fifteen minutes, but again, time has no meaning in this movie. Let's say I knew where this thing was heading before I looked at my watch the first time. And I looked at my watch a lot.

Of course, The DaVinci Code is based on a big, fat best-selling novel, and part of the problem with the movie is that you can sense the filmmakers wanting to be as faithful as possible, without reinventing the book in cinematic terms. I haven't read the book, and my guess is that it's awful, but awful books frequently make great movies. The Godfather, Jaws, The Shining...hell, even The Bridges of Madison County was watchable. What all these had in common were strong directors able to pick and choose what did and didn't work in the books and go from there.

Here you only have the auteur of Cocoon and Willow, Ron Howard, who's usually at his best with comedy, and come to think of it, The DaVinci Code has numerous laugh-out-loud moments. Unintentional, of course, but it's as close as it gets to entertainment. And in fairness to Howard, it would seem to be impossible to find the right tone for a story that pretends to deal with serious matters of faith but which also features a gun-wielding albino monk, an outrageous character that would be far more appropriate as a skulking henchman in a James Bond picture.

The monk is played by Paul Bettany, one of many terrific actors (Ian McKellan, Alfred Molina) who appear here to absolutely zero effect. A miscast Tom Hanks has the lead as a dashing, world-famous expert in symbology (In what world does this take place?), and while he's not bad, exactly, he's uninteresting and looks uncomfortable.

Is there anything worthwhile in this movie? No. But my evening wasn't a total bust, since afterwards we stopped by The High Life Lounge, so far as I know the only bar in Des Moines that serves Grain Belt. And as I listened to my neighbor spout his drunken theories on dating, I realized he's a misogynistic jerk. So hey, at least I learned something.