Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

2006, US, directed by Ron Howard

Rating: ***


After all the baying at the time of The Da Vinci Code's theatrical release, it's no surprise to discover that underneath the noise this is a solidly-told version of the blockbuster book, a tad too respectful of the source material (like the first Harry Potter films), but good, honest fun nonetheless (and it never seems to take the pseudo-religious shenanigans too seriously, unlike some viewers). Director Ron Howard's film choices aren't always inspiring, but he's a more-than-competent Hollywood storyteller, who marshals disparate plotlines with skill; despite what some critics wrote, the narrative is clear, and the visual methods used to convey the various puzzles are sometimes very effective. That said, there's no doubt that it's overlong, mostly as a result of the filmmakers' unwillingness to jettison aspects of the book: the series of puzzles that remains quite intriguing on the page is repetitive onscreen (unlike, say, the boxing matches that punctuate Howard's Cinderella Man). Tom Hanks is fine as Robert Langdon: he's not stretched by any means, but he's well cast as a figure of trust. Audrey Tautou, by contrast, seems less at ease as Sophie Neveu. She's perfectly suited to gamine roles, but she seems out-of-place here, especially when she's weighed down by some clunky dialogue, while it's frustrating that Neveu often defers to Langdon though she's supposed to have abundant smarts of her own. The supporting cast is dependable if not much more; Ian McKellen plays a cinematic version of who we think Ian McKellen to be, which I suppose is fun if you can get paid for it, but he's too good an actor for that kind of thing. A gaggle of familiar French faces also get some screen-time, and presumably fatter-than-usual pay packets.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States