5.20.2006

The Flaccid Da Vinci Choad

So dark the con of Ron Howard who screwed up a sure thing. The Da Vinci Code was a wildly successful novel that had a compelling concept delivered by a flimsy vehicle. One would think that placing the concept in the hands of a skilled filmmaker would improve upon what Dan Brown couldn't quite get right: His stupid plot and insipid writing. After all, it wasn't the story in the novel that made The Code so ubiquitously talked about. It was the controversial historical references and theories made about a subject near and dear to billions that kept everyone reading. Case in point, did anyone ever say: "Remember the part in the book where Robert Langdon did this?!"

No.

The problem with making this book into a film is that the book is very "talky", and the meat of the story lies in the subtext. For instance, Dan Brown made countless, painstaking references to symbology in his novel that almost made it at times read like a lightweight history textbook, and if you're into that kind of thing, like me, then you would have soaked up the book through your eyeballs in spite of its weaker points. In order to get the novel onto the screen without sacrificing all of that good stuff, the filmmakers decided to paste the entire mess onto celluloid, making for a very long and often boring ordeal that had me beginning to question whether or not my car needed cleaning out again. The writers didn't even bother to clean up the rudimentary Dan Brown dialogue, which has to be like breaking some kind of cardinal rule.

Cue rimshot.

This is not a good idea, and it should serve as a lesson to anyone who hopes to adapt a novel to film: Do not be lazy. There is a difference between a written medium and a visual one, and the two are not always compatible. Writers often need to take liberties in order to make the transition to the big screen successful. If this wasn't true, then Peter Jackson would have been burned at the stake rather than dipped in gold. In fact, Ron Howard should have taken a lesson from him because this is easily the worst film Howard has ever made.

What should have been an eagle on the 18th hole ended up being a horribly miscalculated double bogey into the rough, and it looks to me like they spent the entire two and a half hours taking weak stabs with the wrong club trying to get out of it. A hilariously bemulleted (yeah, that's my word) Tom Hanks looks uncomfortable if not miscast in his role as an accomplished academic, with his trademark sardonic grin looking more like: "I hope this claptrap isn't the end of my winning streak." Ian McKellan is the only one who looks as if he belongs, likely because he was the only interesting character in the movie, but even he couldn't carry the crushing weight of the surrounding absurdity.

All in all, if the Da Vinci Code movie gets anything right, it's in highlighting the inherent weaknesses of its source material. If you want to delve into the history behind Brown's inspiration, it's perhaps best to take the non-fictional route and leave the generic Indiana Jones stuff to Spielberg and Lucas.

Gouda's Grade: D

9 comments:

  1. Allie,

    On my newspaper blog, a reader commented: "No, no! I’m a huge fan of the book and cannot tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to the movie ... I’ll let you know tomorrow what I think. Sir Critic, I hope I can wholeheartedly disagree with you on this one!"


    Hre response today after seeing it: "I hate to admit it but I actually fell asleep in this movie."

    Can't help but laugh at that one!

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  2. I enjoyed the movie, though I did not read the book, so I cannot make any comparisons. I found it consistently engaging, interesting and entertaining. However, I also thought it was a bit convoluted. I wish it were 20 minutes longer, just to flesh out some of the relationships, associations and plots (especially with respect to The Teacher). But, I can't understand why the critics savaged this movie as they did. Certainly, in my view, it is a competent and worthy effort. Imperfect, yes....but hardly a travesty.

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  3. I dunno, Frances... I just felt that it was TOO long. Another 15 minutes and I might have actually walked out. Some tighter editing and some liberties taken with the source material to separate it MORE from the weak aspects of the novel would have definitely gone a long way.

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  4. Allie, it appears you are dead on with all of the reviews I have read or heard. Seriously, how could Ron and Tom fuck this up? It should have been something they could do with their eyes closed. I loved the book as a good quick read. I wanted something more from the movie.....I am now waiting for dvd. BTW, I have a good idea for the movie review site. We'll talk.

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  5. I guess I'm just in the minority on this one. I was never bored with it.

    I would have liked some more time dedicated to how Lee hooked up with Silas and the others. That whole relationship was a bit unclear to me. Why would they trust him? If I called them up and called myself The Teacher, would they follow my orders?

    I also thought Lee's turn was rushed. He went from being the best friend to holding them at gunpoint too quickly. I would have enjoyed the movie more if there were 20 more minutes dedicated to all of Lee's plots, relationships and betrayals. My only real complaint about the whole film is that it was unnecessarily convoluted.

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  6. If it makes ya feel any better, the Lee twist wasn't fleshed out very well in the book either. Hence the problem with the movie: it was just too faithful to the book.

    Also- my husband enjoyed the movie, so you aren't alone! :)

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  7. Knowing how much bad press the movie was getting, on top of all the theocratic rhetoracy (I think I made that term up, you heard it here first!), made me happy to give my money to Sony, who has run a much more unified and uplifting advertising campaign than those who don't want us to see it, be they movie critics or fanatics of some other persuasion...

    For me, it was so very not-horrible, that I have to wonder at the motivations behind many of the films professional detractors. I enjoyed it as a whole.

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  8. Allie, I had a feeling you'd see this movie this weekend and review it for those of us who never see movies in the theater. Now I know to save my money and wait till its on HBO. Thanks! I liked the book, though it was a bit too "easy" in that thriller sort of way. Too bad they couldn't do more with the movie. And Tom's hair seems like it would be very distracting. Moreso than if he redid his "Bosum Buddies" do.

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  9. Sigh. What a disappointment. I had high hopes for this one.

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