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"Da Da Vinci Code": a film review by Gary Chew

Projected sequel: "The Duchamp Code"
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GARY CHEW/Sacramento

The tip-off came early with the trailer which preceded the feature about to screen. The preview was “Casino Royale,” the new 007 adventure touting its new star of the franchise, Daniel Craig (co-star of "Sylvia", reviewed here by Chew). Not more than five minutes into Ron Howard’s latest, “Da Da Vinci Code,” I knew that, despite the fact the novel had sold so many copies, the movie should be titled, “James Bond Finds The Holy Grail.”

Usually, I don’t review what look to be predictable blockbuster films by well-known Hollywood directors who cast movie celebrities to play themselves in the lead roles. “Da Da Vinci Code” seemed to fall into that category as I was looking at my calendar a couple of weeks ago to determine whether or not it should be put on my “to see” list.

What with all the bookselling and tangential marketing that’s gone on with “Da Code,” and the sanctimonious uproar being sounded across space and time about blasphemy issuing from the lips of secularists, I decided, as film reviewers say, “to take the screening.”

The James Bond trailer and my initial reaction about “Da Code” weren’t wrong. Give me a break, please! This film is as radical and blasphemous as “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” However, I wouldn’t want my 14-year-old daughter to see “Da Code.” Not because she’s a Catholic, but due to the bloody violence depicted in the film: a naked, self-flagellating monk (Paul Bettany) who also murders people, including a kindly, old nun. This movie should be right up Mel Gibson’s alley, so that means its PG-13 really ought to be an R.

“Da Code” is a pseudo-intellectual comic book tale which fence-rides itself off to The Land of Ho-Hum with Tom Hanks in the saddle as a skeptical, yet theistic Harvard professor and symbologist named Dr. Robert Langdon. His asexual sidekick is Paris police cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, played by the dainty Audrey Tautou. They’re trying to find out who killed Sophie’s grandfather in the Louvre while running from the Mayberry-esque French Police (Jean Reno as boss) who believe that Dr. Tom has done the dirty deed a la Leonardo Da Vinci.

In the innocent process of attempting to find the killer of Sophie’s grandfather, other items of interest intervene, like: what does some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s art actually mean? Where is The Holy Grail and what is it, really? What about Jesus and his relationship with Mary Magdalene? Were they really married? Did they have children? (See Martin Scorcese.) Are descendants of Jesus alive today, and if so, who and where are they?

All of it more fuel to fire the controversy (read: sell books and tickets) about the divine and human aspects of Jesus of Nazareth; this, as if we needed any more to be conflicted about. Besides, you can get reruns nearly ever night about such questions on The Discovery Channel. Religiostic booga booga with anagrams, puzzles and weird music.

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

The ubiquitous Ian McKellen appears in the templated Penguin role (Batman) as Sir Leigh Teabing, a Holy Grail expert and totally eccentric colleague of Professor Langdon (that’s Dr. Tom). Mr. Howard’s combination of burlesqued intellectualism and French culture (Tautou, Reno, the Louvre and Paris, itself) is Da Opie Code designed to inflame ultra-conservative fundamentalist believers in the culture while posturing as someone who encourages the asking of questions about one’s faith.

But the overriding component of “Da Da Vinci Code” is not about Dan Brown or Ron Howard, or what is or isn’t Divine. The compelling issue at hand is: Dr. Tom’s hair!

Tom Hanks, a former student at the university where I am now working on my doctorate in classical disc-jockery, has gotten himself an English thespian’s hairdo. It’s his “for-the-later-years" coiffure when he’ll be getting more awards in Los Angeles and London. And, with a movie other than “The Da Vinci Code,” one in Cannes, maybe.

"The Da Vinci Code" official site.

See Yahoo Movies for Tulsa theaters & times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2006, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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