Saturday, June 03, 2006

Review: Da Vinci Code

Crossposted at naachgaana.

Surely this one requires no spoiler alert. But if you have been comatose for nearly a year, it should suffice to know that the film is essentially an All-Veggie All-Aboard three-day two-night hurdle through Europe. Except that here you don't just take a look at the Mona Lisa, quickly snap what will surely be a badly illuminated photo next to the multiple layers of bulletproof pane as proof for your cousins that you imbibed some kul-chah while in the Continent, and then move on to Montmarte for lap dances from a little pixie named Frou-Frou. Rather, in this version, you sit through what seems like a very tedious art-history lesson where you had already read the coursework roughly a year back lesson where you had already read the coursework roughly a year agowhen it had been been presented to you in an easily digestible lower-middle brow 'bestseller' format.

Everyone that reads the book, or skims through it as I did over multiple sessions on the bathroom throne,  will identify Dan Brown's clear pitch to Hollywood movie-execs in every single page. Now that he has seen his name in celluloid, one can hope he will stop writing. But bad books often make for good movies and there was hope for da Code too. Nevertheless, Ron Howard decided to make his production of the Da Vinci Code the exception that proves this rule. The movie sticks too closely to the book -- to a fault almost.

So why did he not improve upon the original? What was he been afraid of? Legions of fans, like tweenage Potter rooters, who would quibble over every detail and pummel him with their tiny fists of fury for directorial flights of fantasy? Howard's faults lie not in the execution of the film, but in his very approach to it. Like any bad presenter, he fails to estimate his audience and that is precisely why he disappoints. The film's biggest draw could have been people that tape Discovery Channel special episodes on Atlantis: The Lost City for later reviewing, in short, people like you and me. We already knew the anagram to 'so dark the con of man'. What we really expeced were adrenalin pumping chases through nighttime Paris, Lolita-esque sexual tension between the older Robert Langdon and the younger Sophie Neve and stunning visual effects --  i.e. an endocrinal experience not an edifying one. But Howard takes us through each tedious anagram and pseudo-historical anecdote droning on like a bored docent in an ill-lit museum gallery.

Ofcourse it does not help that much of those anecdotes are spouted by the guy who is solely responsible for the inclusion of the word 'bubba' in the American movie lexicon. Ofcourse it does not help that much of those anecdotes are spouted by the guy who is solely responsible for the inclusion of the word 'bubba' in the American movie lexiconTom Hanks, who in previous roles has memorably channeled the intellectually (Forrest Gump), mitochondrially (Toy Story I, II) and credentially (Terminal) challenged is unconvincing as a sprightly Harvard don. Audrey Tatou (Amelie) as Sophie Neveu is too virginal to have even the slightest desire of engaging in the mildest flirtation with Prof. Hanks. Couple that with cheesy send-ups to how an academic should behave, even in specific a New Englander, should, and what you have is like a tepid version of Indiana Jones, sans the fighting and the flailing.

Naturally, a movie as boring as this can only survive through hype. The throngs of christianist protesters -- from rural Bible belt hamlets to the insignificant minorities in Pakistan -- who have unwittingly contributed to that elusive dream of the marketing consultant, the Buzz, are probably numb with the effeteness of this long prosaic polemic against Christianity. One hears Dan Brown's immemorably cliched phrases about the 'biggest lie' in the world in the repetitive exhortations by Hanks et. al. and the suspension of disbelief fails, plummetting the viewer onto the dark depths of the cinema where he finds himself helplessly trapped for another two hours. The viewer waits, expecting a good scene any moment now, and is led to one lukewarm scene after another. If this has the power to shake the faith of the christianists, then Mel Gibson's task of faith affirmation remains incomplete. Right?

Would you, gentle reader go out and watch the movie? Or wait till it comes out on DVD and then borrow it from your neighbour before returning it to Blockbuster?