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The Da Vinci Code

The Secret is Out…and It's Not That Interesting

If you haven't either read The Da Vinci Code or heard of it then you've been living under a rock for the past few years. Penned by author Dan Brown, there is no escaping this fast-paced novel. For those of you who have not yet read it: simply put, it is the best airplane book ever written and it will (temporarily) ruin your life. It is book crack. You'll sweep everything to the sidelines -- sleep, food, relationships, work -- until you finish it. It inspires addiction and cult-like behavior from fans. And it has been made into one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Directed by Ron Howard (Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind), The Da Vinci Code (arguably) reveals "the greatest cover-up in human history." After a prominent curator is murdered in the Louvre, everyone's favorite academic-turned-action-star Robert Langdon (played by an oddly cast Tom Hanks), a world-renowned professor of religious symbology, finds himself entangled in a centuries old war, full of secret societies and covert Catholic orders, battling over the very foundation of Christianity. Luckily he has some help in the form of the sweet and lovely Sophie (Audrey Tautou), a gifted code-breaker with a mysterious past. Unluckily, he is being hunted down by some very zealous police officers, including Captain Fache (Jean Reno).

Chills and thrills aside, The Da Vinci Code has pacing problems. While the book doesn't give you time to breath, the film almost meanders its way through the 149 minute runtime. Scenes that are meant to be fast-paced and leave you on the edge of your seat are drowned out by scenes weighed down by exposition and flashbacks. Half the film consists of flashbacks! And not the well done ones that are seamlessly integrated into the storyline but the jarring kind that delay the plot's flow and serve to only create more confusion. Flashbacks work on the page where the author can go further in depth but not on the screen where movement is of the essence. Indeed, the reliance on flashbacks rather than actual dialogue or action to reveal the story's many secrets deflates the denouement. By the time the climax rolls around you're left wondering what happened to the last forty minutes.

Moreover, Hanks sports one of the worst haircuts ever seen in cinematic history. And I am not exaggerating. It is very distracting. It looks like someone crazy glued a bad weave straight onto his head. Paul Bettany as Silas steals the show as a damaged, misled monk with a violent streak and Ian McKellan also gives a strong, nuanced performance as Sir Leigh Teabing, a quirky English aristocrat and fellow scholar. Tautou seems to reinterpret her character somewhat infusing it with her own brand of wide-eyed innocence.

It seems odd that a pairing like director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman who usually produce the stuff of Oscars came up with a film like this. Then again Goldsman did write Batman & Robin. While one could argue that there's only so much you can do with an adaptation and still stay true to the original story, that doesn't absolve the filmmakers of a tepid visual interpretation. To sum up this movie in one word: meh. Read the book -- it's better. Besides, if you don't eat, sleep, or go to work, you can finish it in a day. Or, even better, on a long flight.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars