The Da Vinci Code
dir. Ron Howard

I hadn’t read the book before going to see The Da Vinci Code, but as I watched the creaky film version, I hatched a guess or two about its bestselling predecessor. Surely, I thought, Dan Brown wouldn’t have made his killer a conspicuous albino in brown Franciscan robes with self-inflected flagellation wounds oozing blood down his ankles—that’s just Hollywood being obvious, right? Wrong! In the book the oozy albino even has long white hair. I just—um. I have nothing to say about flowing albino hair. Thank god Ron Howard refrained.

Not much refraining goes on in the rest of The Da Vinci Code. A lecture by Professor of Religious Symbolism Tom Hanks, which opens the movie, is mildly intriguing (I like seeing Madonna-and-childs that are actually Isis-and-Horuses as much as the next person)—but isn’t the shock-fest that the French undergraduates seem to experience as they gasp in ragged amazement at every slide. Multiple action scenes are undercut by implausible caesuras (a gunman distracted by a flurry of doves) and amusing lines like “I have to get to the library. Fast.”

But don’t imagine this sober silliness yields any camp rewards: Everything about this movie is boiled until tough. The cinematography (by Cinderella Man’s Salvatore Totino) is without flair; Tom Hanks is charmless; Audrey Tautou looks like a dusty china doll; and the scavenger-hunt plot is stretched out over 149 draining minutes. Only Ian McKellen wrings any fun out of the movie, but then again, he gets two crutches to play with. (I wish he had the albino hairdo.)