Roll Over, Da Vinci

Despite the fact that my mother is recovering from shoulder surgery, I dragged her with me on Saturday to watch the Ron Howard-directed film version of the Dan Brown schlockfest/international phenomenon known as The Da Vinci Code. Now, I’ve not been shy about expressing my opinion of Brown’s novel (the short version being that I hated it a lot), so why would I go watch a movie based on it? Well, I was either expecting an afternoon of campy fun or I hate myself. Either way, I sat through all of it, and have come to one conclusion: The Da Vinci Code is the Anna Karenina of movies. Yes. In short, it is 149 minutes long, and it’s impossible not to feel all 8,940 seconds of it. I went into the theater for a 1:40 p.m. matinee, and when I left, I was surprised that it wasn’t the middle of the night. The Da Vinci Code is long, people. Do you hear me? It’s LONG. Kind of like what’s going on with Tom Hanks’s hair these days.

Now, anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years should at least have a passing familiarity with the premise of Dan Brown’s novel (and therefore, the film). If you have been living under a rock for the past few years, consider this to be your spoiler alert and go read something else. Okay. So, the film follows Dan Brown’s novel pretty closely, which seems logical, because when reading The Da Vinci Code, it’s perfectly obvious that Brown wrote it with the intention of getting a totally bitchin’ movie deal out of it. So, the story begins in Paris with a murder in the Louvre. Dr. Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks and his Hanks-Mullet — I guess they couldn’t get Harrison Ford, who was supposedly the movie star Langdon resembles in the book), Harvard professor of the fictitious discipline of symbology, is lecturing in Paris and is summoned to the murder scene, presumably because of the weird symbols present on the murder victim’s chest, but actually because he’s being set up as the murderer. With the help of codebreaker (and granddaughter of the victim) Sophie Neveau (played by the adorable Audrey Tautou), Langdon-Mullet slips from the police inspector’s grasp and embarks on the adventure of solving a centuries-old mystery, the clues of which were subversively planted by Leonardo Da Vinci in his masterworks. Got all that? Okay.

So what is this controversial secret? Well. It’s that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, got her pregnant, and got crucified. After his crucifixion, his widow, who had, at some point, given birth to a daughter, Sarah, takes her child and ends up in southern France. The child intermarries with the Merovingian kings, and Christ’s bloodline survives to this day, diluted as it may be, in France. That’s the story, more or less, though the real shocker is that you know the Holy Grail? It’s not the cup that Christ drank out of during The Last Supper. No, it’s Magdalene. There’s a really long scene explaining all of this — that the ancient symbol for woman was the chalice, that the church, in an anti-feminist plot, has been covering all of this up for centuries — and let me tell you, it’s certainly much more feminist to derive Mary Magdalene’s worth from the notion that she was The Holy Sperm Receptacle. Indeed.

It was during the revelation of this part of the story that I became quite ill. The room started spinning, and I felt dangerously close to throwing up on the floor, passing out, or throwing up on the floor and then passing out. It could’ve been the Kung Pao chicken, or it could’ve been low blood sugar, or it could’ve been that IT WAS ALL SO SHOCKING! I’M SO DIZZY! GAAAAHHHHH!!!


Anyway, I’m not really looking to debate the plot points, I’m just here to write about how effective it all was as a movie. So, despite the fact that I actually became physically ill which may or may not have been the fault of the film, I’ll just tell you that it all works out just perfectly. The bad guy gets arrested, the last living descendent of Christ is discovered, Hanks-Langdon-Mullet gets to kneel at the hidden grave of Mary Magdalene and totally waste a golden opportunity to overact in true Hanks style. As a murder mystery, it’s not particularly mysterious, and in many cases, the film is less effective at building suspense than the book was, which is quite an impressive feat, considering how lame Brown’s lumbering novel truly was. It did preserve some of the laughably horrible dialogue, like the constant exclamations of “Oh shit!” (in French, too!) and gems like “My God. I don’t believe this. A rose.” The problem, however, is that for what’s supposed to be an exciting thriller, the pacing is remarkably slow. I’m not sure if this is the fault of Akiva Goldsman’s screenplay or Ron Howard’s directing or both, but I’m pretty sure that it’s more thrilling to watch paint dry. I’ll have to paint something and let you know for sure. In fact, the only real thrill of the movie came at the beginning, while we waited for the Hanks-Mullet to make its appearance onscreen. The opening music was quite dramatic, and there were shots of hands and perhaps a shoulder before we were treated to the full-on horror of that thing attached to Tom Hanks’s head. I’m pretty sure the person sitting behind me gasped because it was just that bad. Sure, we’ve all seen it in miniature on television during the previews, but there’s really no comparison to the scale of the Hanks-Mullet on the big screen. I think I may still be in shock.

So, just for the record, I’d like to add my voice to the growing dismissal of this movie as being really bad. The film’s only saving grace was Ian McKellen, who played Sir Leigh Teabing, and seemed to be the only person having fun in a movie that was taking itself way too seriously. Kudos to you, McKellen, for being the one bright spot in a cinematic world overcome with bad dialogue and the overpowering evil of the Hanks-Mullet. Some movies know what they are, and therefore are entertaining in their badness because they don’t strive to be something more. This movie, on the other hand, is awful precisely because it takes itself just seriously enough to suck any potential “Yeah, I know I’m watching a bad movie, but it’s so bad it’s awesome” fun right out of it. And that’s a shame. Because seriously, The Da Vinci Code is not deep. Don’t try to make it that way.

10 Responses

  1. loose endsThanks for the
    loose ends

    Thanks for the review, Jamelah. I assume you will now take some questions.

    You didn’t tell us whether or not your mother’s shoulder was miraculously healed by the experience.

    Sorry you were ill; are you sure you didn’t walk into The Blair Witch Project by mistake? That one gave me the spins. I’m just asking.

    Okay, I read the Da Vinci Code, and I don’t remember anything about the guy’s hair looking like a matted buffalo’s ass. Do you? Why did they do that?

    Do you speak French or were there subtitles?

  2. Well, here are some
    Well, here are some answers:

    1. Unfortunately, no. I think the evil of the Hanks-Mullet was too great for any healing to take place.

    2. I’m better now, and yes, I’m sure. I think perhaps it was a result of prolonged exposure to the Hanks-Mullet.

    3. I have no idea, but I think it’s a grievous crime against humanity.

    4. I do not speak French, and yes there were subtitles, though “Merde!” is pretty easy to understand regardless.

  3. More loose endsI haven’t read
    More loose ends

    I haven’t read “daVinci” and now that I’ve seen the film, don’t intend to. Have also not been living under a rock — just went with an open mind. Found the film to be a thousand times more engrossing than the typical thriller (think James Bond), not nearly as funny or entertaining as anything Harrison Ford has ever done (think Indiana Jones) and utterly preposterous in its conclusions.

    My main question, and one that the film just dropped in my lap in the final scene: How in the world did that renowned architect, Pei, know EXACTLY where to position his modern day pyramid at the Louvre site? I believe Pei is still alive and wonder how he feels about being swept into this maelstrom?

  4. giggles and stuffAnd I
    giggles and stuff

    And I happily add that this was not as much fun as I had hoped it would be. It’s just all too overwhelming to take seriously and the music made me expect great things and they just weren’t happening on the screen.

    I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie… that way you have a way of determining how much more badness you must endure to get through the whole thing.

    Good job on the review. You do good work!

  5. I think in the book he’s a
    I think in the book he’s a member of the Priory of Sion, or the guy who commissioned it and ordered its specifications was a member of the Priory of Sion. It’s been a couple of years since I read the book (and by the end, I was really just skimming to be done with it), so I don’t remember exactly how Dan Brown worked it out, but it was something along those lines. The film doesn’t explain that at all.

  6. Not only was there no healing
    Not only was there no healing from the film, I, who had been on pain killers for a week, did not take them so I would not sleep through the film. Bad mistake on my part. I could have used a healthy dose of vicodin right before the movie started. I’m sure the whole experience would have been less painful had I stayed on my meds.

  7. Heh. Thanks. Yeah, I loved
    Heh. Thanks. Yeah, I loved the “Well, this was near the end of the book… it can’t be that much longer” comments coming from my left.

  8. Oh, the ordeals our children
    Oh, the ordeals our children put us through. I feel your pain, Jamelah’s Mom.

  9. You know, I once did a study
    You know, I once did a study on the difference between Baptists and Unitarians.

    1. The Baptists are trying to ban The Da Vinci Code from school libraries.

    The Unitarians are using The Da Vinci Code to teach their third graders how to read.

    2. The Baptists believe that when the Bible says “wine” it means “grape juice.”

    The Unitarians believe that when Jesus turned water into wine, it’s bouquet was not unlike Tommy Smother’s brand from Martha’s Vineyard.

  10. Indeed. The least you could
    Indeed. The least you could do is provide the poor woman with a grandchild.

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