'Da Vinci' Slowed

'Da Vinci' Slowed

Film Review

Reading Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code," one can't quite escape the feeling that it was perfectly set up to be a movie. The writing is quick and succinct and far from classic. The plot jumps from scene to scene with action in between. The book is practically a screenplay already; in practice, though, "The Da Vinci Code" falls somewhat short.

It is not because the subject is any less interesting, or because Ron Howard mucks it up or even because of Tom Hanks's distracting hair. It is the simple fact that most of the book is a lesson in history (truth and fiction), and a lot of talking and little action does not a fun movie make.

Howard tries his best to liven up the expository scenes with creatively done flashbacks and historical scenes, but it's still just Tom Hanks or Ian McKellen talking and — no matter how interesting the subject — it just gets kind of boring around hour one.

In case you've been living in an alternate dimension for the past three years, "The Da Vinci Code" is about Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) who is sucked into a complex series of events that could lead to a secret so great it could destroy the foundations of Christianity. Clearly, the Catholic church — especially the conservative Opus Dei organization— does not want this secret getting out, so Langdon and Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) must run from the police and Silas (Paul Bettany, as a crazed monk who does Opus Dei's bidding) as they struggle to solve the mystery behind Sophie's grandfather's death, the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar.

The film's problem is the mystery-solving is done in Langdon's head. Howard uses some creative techniques to try to flesh this out into a visual medium, but the tricks don't work every time —thus, a lot of what made the book exciting is removed from the film and the makes the puzzle-solving seem too easy.

This causes the film to seem almost ridiculous as it builds to its climax because of a lack of tension. The great revelation at the end of the film seems obvious and slightly humorous (as was confirmed by the laughter in the theater) because the audience wasn't allowed to mill over the puzzles and questions like they are in the book.

Hanks (you'll get used to the hair) is relatively harmless as Langdon, but he seems constantly out of his element in every scene which is fine in the beginning of the film when he is supposed to be but annoying at the end when he is saving the day. Tautou needs to work a bit on her English before committing to another role that depends so much on her chemistry with another actor. While there isn't supposed to be any romance between the two, the characters seem a little stand-offish throughout the film. Still, both perform admirably.

"The Da Vinci Code's" problem is not a deficiency within the story or the actors; it's a problem with the medium of film. What works so well in the book does not translate to the screen with the cinematic impact that great movies have.

It's not that the film lacks anything it should have; it lacks what it can't have.