While not quite as horrifically bad as some of the early reviews from Cannes would lead you to believe, this pic is still way too long (by at least 30 minutes), has miserable dialogue, uninspired acting, an overbearing score from the king of overbearing scores—Hans Zimmer—and at least three false endings.
Helmer Ron Howard proves once again that he can deliver heartwarming fare à la Splash (1984) Cocoon (1985), and Parenthood (1989), but seems to miss the mark—more often than not—once the scope is widened.
In this movie, chases are strangely unexciting, there is zero chemistry between the leads, many plot points are poorly explained while others are covered in too much detail for a motion picture, and, it must be said, the putrid nonsense of Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller simply cannot stand filmic exposition.
Harvard professor of symbology (yeah, right) Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called in to help investigate the murder of Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Officially, this investigation is under the control of gruff police captain Fache (Jean Reno), although another cop, Sophie Neveu, (Audrey Tautou) manages to impose herself on the proceedings.
That’s a good thing, since Fache is convinced that Langdon is actually the perp, and Sophie is worried about dear Robert. It seems that the murder is part of an elaborate battle between various fringe factions of the Church, caught up in intrigue and conspiracy, to protect the “secret” of the Holy Grail. Next thing you know, Robert and Sophie are at the estate of fanatic Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) to try to put it all together.
Teabing more than obliges, what with an at-the-ready multimedia presentation of the Grail, “proving” that the Grail is not a drinking vessel, but rather refers to Mary Magdalene, the vessel holding Jesus’ daughter. Yup, St. Mary M. was pregnant at the Crucifixion, at least in the fantasy world of Dan Brown.
You see, it is not St. John in Da Vinci’s Last Supper at all. It’s “really” Mary Magdalene. How do we know this is true, you might ask. Well, it has to be true to propel the plot of the book and the film. Besides, if you were a shadowy group that wanted to keep all this secret, you would surely expose it in one of the most famous paintings of all time, wouldn’t you?
The most important thing would be to hide the location of the remains of St. Mary Magdalene, because then someone could perform DNA analysis against her descendant, who, despite being aware of all this intrigue and the damage it could do to the faithful, would of course reveal herself (whoops–spoiler). And, even if the DNA match occurred on remains somehow authenticated to be those of St. Mary M., at best, the line could be drawn back to Magdalene, still only proving that she had a child, which although not mentioned in the Gospels, has never been denied specifically by anyone. How this proves that Jesus was the father is not explained.
The story plays out, replete with scenarios that are, to be kind, unlikely, including the revelation of the current living member of the blood line, with as much melodrama as you can get away with in a 2006 flick. How much box office this pic does is anybody’s guess. Movie bucks are traditionally driven by kids, and kids don’t read books like The Da Vinci Code, nor are they typically interested in turgid conspiracy potboilers.
Still, if die-hard fans flock to the theaters, the first few weeks could be strong. My hunch is that those that love the book will not like the movie, and word-of-mouth could prevent this one from earning back its cost. All in all, a surprisingly poor effort for a book that the experts thought was ideal cinematic material.