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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
"Funny, I don't even like history."
DVD ReviewIf Dan Brown is your idea of a great writer, then Ron Howard is probably your idea of a great filmmaker. They're fantastically well suited to one another, on some level, and I'm sure that they (or their people) would be happy to point to the grosses to prove me wrong. Of course they're thoroughly middlebrow; their principal characteristic, though, seems not be their lack of intellectual ambition, but rather how seriously they take themselves. And so what they've come up with is a boring movie based on a turgid novel—it's not especially suspenseful or satisfying, but it does go in for some cheap thrills and lots of tremulous music. Plus, it gives us a chance to see Howard's imagining of the Council of Nicea. How awesome is that?
As you're already likely aware, having read and forgot the novel during a flight delay, or something, the action is set in motion when a curator at the Louvre is murdered in the museum's great hall by a self-flagellating albino monk. Called in to consult with the Parisian police force is Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor lecturing, conveniently enough, in Paris, that very evening. Circumstances force him to team up with Sophie Neveu, a cop who plays by her own rules (you see how easy this is?). Hijinks ensue.
You do have to give Howard and company credit for mounting a handsome production—they were able to shoot at the Louvre, and throughout France and Great Britain, giving us at least something to look at. But we've all been dealt a bad hand with this story, and there's not much to be done about it. Langdon, we're told, is a professor of religious symbology, and immediately we're alerted that Brown and company are just going to make up stuff that sounds cool to them. That's fine, and that's what writers do; but you soon realize that Brown's imagination is that of a stunted adolescent who would rather play Dungeons and Dragons than anything else, especially talk to girls. He paints his characters into a corner—and then there's a magic truck! He falls into the same trap again—and a plane magically appears! New stuff keeps popping up, like the whole story is on double secret probation; and the film's notions of culture and religion and history are insultingly reductive, too, all of human endeavor reduced to a series of rebuses or scavenger hunts.
Tom Hanks as Langdon does his best with pages and pages of exposition, but he seems pretty glum throughout—if not the screenplay, then surely his mullet is the cause. Audrey Tautou makes her English-language debut as Sophie, but it's almost as if Howard deliberately set about draining all the charm out of her. You look at the leading man, and the director, and you watch some of this, and you can only think: can't you guys go back to making something like Splash?
Having a bit of fun, at least, are a handful of character actors who mug 'til the cows come home. Ian McKellen is a crusty old pal of Langdon's; Alfred Molina is a megalomaniacal priest; Jean Reno is a relentless, Opus Dei Javert; Paul Bettany is that masochistic albino priest. The movie even inflicts some painful flashbacks on us, overlit so we know it's the past; the best you can say for the film's visual style is that Howard seems to have retained at least a couple of lessons from A Beautiful Mind. But that's not much, and to my mind a film like this, so insulting and reckless with history and its audience, is far more offensive in so many ways than, say, The Last Temptation of Christ.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
Image Transfer Review: The technical values, at least, are high—it's very well transferred, and a good thing, too, as almost all of the story takes place at night, so the subtleties in black levels are most welcome.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: How do you feel about cellos? You'd better love them, because you're in for close to two and a half hours of bass clef tremolo. As repetitive and numbing as the score is, however, it is frequently preferable to Akiva Goldsman's dialogue, which is often drowned out.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
13 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Pursuit of Happyness, All the King's Men, Casino Royale, The Holiday, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, Curse of the Golden Flower, Gridiron Gang, Open Season, Click, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Seinfeld: Season 7, Blu-Ray promo
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: Disc 1 features a raft of Sony trailers, while Disc 2 is devoted to the extras. Prominently featured are Howard, Brown, Hanks, Tautou, Goldsman, and producer Brian Grazer—we see Howard's first day on the set, at the Louvre (02m:07s), and then a brief chat (04m:47s) with Brown, which no one will mistake for Booknotes. Pieces are devoted to Langdon (07m:13s), Sophie (06m:52) and, under the heading Unusual Suspects (17m:52s), to the film's character actors. Magical Places (15m:50s) is all about location access; Close-Up on Mona Lisa details working with and around the Louvre's most famous resident. These become repetitive, especially in a Filmmaker's Journey, divided into two parts (24m:33s and 12m:14s, respectively). Oh, the humanity.
The Codes of The Da Vinci Code (05m:27s) demonstrates that Brown and Howard absolutely take us for idiots, as they detail the movie's own symbolic structure—a Caravaggio poster, for instance, we are told, represents Langdon's past. Jacques Lacan, where art thou? And Hans Zimmer explains how he made us suffer through The Music of The Da Vinci Code (02m:54s).
Finally, if you've got a PC and not a Mac, you can sample a video game based on the movie via your DVD-ROM drive, and the DVD set comes with a flier via which you can order Officially Authorized Functional Replicas of props from the movie, so you can get a cryptex of your very own. Somewhere, Leonardo is crying.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA drearily self-important movie with the subtlety of The Blues Brothers that thinks of all of history as a Gospel-soaked sudoku.
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