May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Is Da Boring

Cinecultist merrily contributed this weekend to the $77 million figure for domestic box office receipts for The Da Vinci Code. Even though the official summer movie season doesn't start until after the long weekend next weekend*, CC felt like we were chipping in our $10 at BAM's theater to the big kick off. However, instead of being swept away by the spectacle and the intrigue and the big name stars, we found ourselves fidgety, bored and snickering a little at the pomposity of it all. If only Ron Howard had spent less time figuring out how to make Ian McKellen's fancy PowerPoint display for Da Vinci art history and more time making this movie fun.

Speaking of Ian McKellen and his crippled, crotchety Professor Teabing character, as other critics have said, he's the best part of the proceedings. Hobbling around on his dueling crutches, challenging Hanks's character to a tea trivia fest (milk or lemon? depends on the tea, of course) and making things tough for his man servant, McKellen can't help but evoke all of his other wizened old men characters. It's like Gandalf and Magneto weren't as benign as we always thought they were. Yet, they're all now more infinitely intriguing.

Except for this brief bright spot, the rest of Da Vinci is da dreadful. Howard's visualization is for the lowest common denominator, his moviemaking can't possibly fathom that the audience could understand as simple a conceit as "bullet in door groove jams the door" and so must spell it out in the most obvious shot-reverse shot structure. Hanks knows how to do "affable" but is completely at a loss on "aloof" and "overly intellectual." Plus there aren't really any satisfying twists to the plot, most of the huge revelations are easily spotted miles away. Then, after these hushed tones and dramatic airs, Howard will switch tacks and plop in an innocuous chat in the courtyard scene. There was audible snickering around us in the theater at that point.

For a film from a book that has such a huge international fan base, CC sort of assumed that at least the story was entertaining if not the most original or plausible. But Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have made an utterly unfun film. Now it'll just be interesting to see if that general critical opinion translates into lower box office receipts or if Code continues to convert the masses.

*Psst. Get ready for The Movie Binge. 85 movies between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It's gonna be brutal and hilarious.

Posted by karen at May 22, 2006 9:04 AM