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The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...

 
Anonymous Coward
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05/16/2006 07:46 PM
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The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
First Review of 'The Da Vinci Code'

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
By Roger Friedman

The 2006 Cannes Film Festival started unofficially tonight with a wildly anticipated screening for the press of Ron Howard's "The Da Vinci Code." After all the buzz, the hype, the controversy, Cannes was ready to make news tonight. I think even the lovely head of the press office, Christine Aimé, was happy to see this one finally pass through her area.

Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's absurdly realized thriller is going strong, it works on the level of "Apollo 13," "A Beautiful Mind" and the best of his beautifully realized films.

When "The Da Vinci Code" takes a brief wrong turn, though, and Howard momentarily loses control of his huge, streamlined vehicle, it's hard to say where to put the blame. I vote for screenwriter Avika Goldsman.

But right now you want to know is: Is "The Da Vinci Code" a good movie? The answer overall is yes.

For most of its overlong two and a half hours, the film is enticing. And surprising in that it's not Tom Hanks — solid as usual — or French film star Audrey Tautou who make the movie tick. It's Sir Ian McKellen, who appears about a quarter to half way through the proceedings and very sublimely scores himself an Academy Award nomination.

Hanks and Tautou, on the other hand, have thankless jobs. They have to propel Dan Brown's bizarre story forward without getting in the way. They do that just fine, but often come off more as Mulder and Scully in "The X Files" than as passionately charged leads. Some may argue with their choices, but I think it was the only way out when the material — a huge best-selling novel with gigantic expectations from its audience — outweighs the actor's opportunity to shine. To say they each emerge unscathed is a compliment — believe me.

You probably know the basic story of "The Da Vinci Code." I never did read the book, maybe on purpose because I wanted to judge it as a film only. It's a thriller, the key element being the search for the Holy Grail.

In this case, the grail is supposed to be the last living descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The clues to all this are found in the Louvre Museum, filed under "Da Vinci." Maybe if Dan Brown had filed them under Leonardo he would have had an easier time figuring the whole thing out. Leonardo was his name and Da Vinci was his address.

Anyway, there are complications as Hanks plays a Harvard expert on symbology. But he is realty a modern, younger, long-haired hip American version of Jacques Derrida let out on long leash. He is really a semiotics expert looking for a spot on Oprah, sort of Indiana Jones trying to find meaning where there isn't any.

Tautou is the granddaughter of a man who holds the key to the code, but doesn't get to impart it to anyone. McKellen is the antagonist who propels them to find an answer.

I don't want to sound vague, but nobody — not even readers of the book — wants spoilers in a review. The real success of the movie is that Howard maintains the suspense of the story even when you're pretty sure where it's headed. The cinematography, music and lighting are superb. And for the most part, Goldsman's screenplay — while very long — lets us play along. Unfortunately, he treats some of the story lazily, as if it were "Batman" and Tautou were a female Bruce Wayne searching for her roots.

You can almost feel a shift as the movie turns away from its course and heads into difficult territory. When the big reveal comes, the audience I was with was so uncomfortable that they laughed at the wrong moment. I suspect that won't be the case when the film plays in theaters; regular audiences are going to take this seriously. But I wish it had been done a different way.

Howard, smartly, senses there's a problem and immediately tries to undo the damage by letting Tautou almost mock the reveal. Howard, you see, has a beautiful mind himself, so he knows how to dig himself out of trouble.

Is "The Da Vinci Code" the best movie of 2006? Probably not. But it's a good movie, a solid entertainment with much to recommend it. The only people who could be unhappy with it are Opus Dei, which is fairly well attacked as represented in excellent performances by Paul Bettany, Jean Reno and Alfred Molina.

Mainstream audiences will take this for what it is: superb escapism, excellent summer entertainment and ambitious filmmaking.


[link to www.foxnews.com]
Anonymous Coward
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05/16/2006 08:01 PM
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Re: The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
digitaldistractions came up in my search for the movie
Anonymous Coward
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05/16/2006 08:02 PM
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Re: The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
I read the book. Thought it was too fast-paced to make a movie. Guess they'll prove me wrong.

That happened with another one- The Time Line by Michael Crichton- THAT movie was a mess!
Anonymous Coward
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05/16/2006 08:25 PM
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Re: The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
It sounds great. I'll be in line to see it Friday. Good old Ron Howard.
sir leigh teabagging
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05/16/2006 08:45 PM
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Re: The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
by the queen mum's bum, i shall teabag this upstart colonial howard forthwith
gsbltd
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05/16/2006 09:39 PM
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Re: The very *first* review of The Da Vinci Code (movie)...
The review makes the film sound pretty disappointing... the BAD thing is, the critic may be RIGHT!

The critics who report from Cannes are not the tabloid-style sellouts that most reviewers become after a little exposure... these folks know their stuff [remember: they're reporting as much for the industry insiders as much as for us civilians]- so, don't get your hopes up when you go to see the DV CODE.

As mentioned in the review- when I read the book I was very impressed with the visual imagery that Dan Brown conjured up with his writing and couldn't wait to see it onscreen [-it reads very much like the roughdraft of a screenplay-] but, I can also see how Ron Howard could shift that energy to a more sombre one.

I was looking forward to buying this one sight-unseen...now, maybe not.

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