The Da Vinci Code (PG-13)

Drama 149 May 19, 2006
By Luke Y. Thompson
There aren't any surprises in this adaptation of the runaway bestseller, though Sony Pictures and director Ron Howard have done their damnedest to pretend that there are. Responding to the challenge of visualizing the book's riddles, Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman simply reach back to their template for A Beautiful Mind: Like Russell Crowe's John Nash, symbology professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) pictures mental puzzles swirling around his head. He's also stalked by Silas (Paul Bettany), a religious fanatic who binds his own leg with a spiky metal chain in order to make it bleed, and whips himself while saying his prayers. No denying that Bettany looks freaky in albino makeup--but then he opens his mouth, subjecting us to a ridiculous Dracula voice that undermines the menace. Turns out Silas is merely the henchman of a faceless figure known as the Teacher, who seems to have deep connections within the Catholic Church and an animosity toward the Priory of Sion, a secret society whose last remaining leader managed to leave a cryptic clue as to the identity and motive of his killer. Langdon, together with the dead guy's granddaughter (Audrey Tautou), must try to solve the crime while avoiding prosecution for it himself. The mystery involves claims about concealed history, some of which posits that Jesus was married and fathered a child. Heresy is downplayed in the movie, where such matters ought to be less of a concern anyway. (Does anyone believe that Indiana Jones really found the lost ark?) The real concern here, despite Howard's big-budget historical recreations of Isaac Newton's England, biblical times, the Crusades, and Constantine's Rome, is the endless talk, talk, talk. (Luke Y. Thompson)
Ron Howard Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Alfred Molina, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Etienne Chicot, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Clive Carter, Seth Gabel Dan Brown, Akiva Goldsman Brian Grazer, John Calley Sony Pictures