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By Michael Ferraro | May 20, 2006

It’s finally here – the film based on the book that has been surrounded by controversy since it became a runaway bestseller a few years ago. People all over the place have discussed its ideals, which examines the life of Jesus Christ in a way not really found inside the Bible or endorsed by the church. In fact, some conservative members of the Catholic Church have denounced its very existence (even though it’s fiction). But they shouldn’t be worried about what sorts of questions their followers will ask once the film is over. What the Church should instead be worried about is people falling asleep after wasting their hard earned dollars on such a dreadfully unexciting and predictable film.

After taking a bullet in the chest, an old man spends plenty of time wandering about the Louvre leaving a cornucopia of clues and codes and ciphers to hide a secret from his killer. When the body is discovered, the French police enlist the help of famed American symbolic and anagram expert Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to help figure out the clues behind the messages. Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) then shows up and informs Langdon that the murdered man is her grandfather and that the police may be in on a conspiracy to hide a secret that promises to “shake the very foundations of Christianity.”

And so begins a most cinematically unchallenging puzzle that’s easier to piece together than a Hardy Boys mystery. Part of the fun of watching (or reading) a mystery is playing along with the characters, trying to figure out what will happen and how it will happen, and then being surprised by the result. The Da Vinci Code is not of this sort.

Those who haven’t read the book are sure to be turned off by the simple predictability of the story thanks to the over explanatory dialogue. With that said, it’s hard to comprehend how a film with so much questioning and answering between characters has less character development than Poseidon. Regardless, every little plot detail is explained greatly so your brain need not worry about making its own conclusions. Even the average cinemagoer should have no problem figuring out who is bad guy or who later becomes a good guy mere minutes after they have entered the picture and the twists are easy to spot miles before they happen.

Even more frustrating than the trite dialogue exchanges, is the robotic performances delivering them. This is Tom Hanks’ worst performance is years (maybe even his worst ever). Ron Howard’s slothful direction is giant misstep from his previous effort (Cinderella Man), relying on techniques and hopefully he won’t repeat it again.

It’s easy to figure out why The Da Vinci Code has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s a typical formulaic mystery surrounded by a controversial topic – Jesus Christ. Brown figured out a good way to make a quick buck. The mere suggestion that Jesus was indeed married to Mary Magdalene (which suggests that he obviously had sex) is enough to both anger strict fundamentalists and captivate the average book reader (and filmgoer) that have never questioned their Bible or educated themselves on all the theories of Christ not included in the good book.

So dreary, the book of Dan Brown and the film of Howard.

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