WEB EXTRA: Don’t read “The DaVinci Code”

If you haven’t read Dan Brown’s international bestseller “The DaVinci Code” by now, a word of advice: don’t.

The page-turner, which might be written at the comprehension level of a sixth-grader, not only insults any GW student’s intelligence, but it also ruins the first big summer blockbuster of the year.

People have been waiting for movie version of “The Da Vinci Code” for more than a year now, ever since the book hit the top of the bestseller lists. But when a mystery book that reveals its secrets page by page is transformed to a detective thriller film, the mystery is gone. The Opus Dei cover-up, the Knights Templar – how does one remain engaged in a more than two-hour-long mystery for which the solution is already known?

This is a problem original to “The DaVinci Code.” Sure, a good deal of books have been made into movies – many of which were read by audience members before seeing the film – but knowing the ending of “Bridget Jones’ Diary” doesn’t make one less eager to see Bridget end up with Mr. Darcy. But after a murder in the Louvre begins to unravel a centuries-old secret, those who already know the solution will find themselves waiting an hour and a half for the big reveal – which, for them, will be decidedly anticlimactic.

Though I dislike Dan Brown’s writing style (especially his choice to end nearly every chapter in some variation of this phrase: “They knew that a terrible secret would be revealed”), the movie version of the Da Vinci code was slick and entertaining, and made me wish I had never read the book. Director Ron Howard invested a great deal of time and money in the film, and it shows – from the careful shots of the characters sprinting through great European museums and cathedrals (The Louvre surprisingly allowed Howard to shoot on location, but Westminister Abbey did not, due to the supposedly blasphemous content of the book), to the historical flashbacks involving hundreds and hundreds of extras, studio money was well spent.

Howard gets a little too CG-happy halfway through the film, though, creating an elaborate hologram of Sir Isaac Newton’s funeral for agent Sophie Neuveu (Audrey Tautou) and professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to wander through as they search for clues. Previous to this, historical flashbacks were separated from present action, and the merging of the two seems only for the flashy computer generated effects.

Tautou and Hanks were able to hold my attention as well, but for two entirely different reasons. Hanks, whose hair generated a lot of tabloid attention prior to the release of the movie, did not disappoint with a thinning, mullet-like ‘do that was the focus of many close-ups. And Tautou, known in America only for “Amelie” and “A Very Long Engagement,” became a target of my jealousy – as she will soon be for women all across the country – for her absolutely perfect bone structure. Thankfully, the film script deviated from Brown’s book in that the two leads did not have a romantic relationship – which surely would have increased the ick factor. Ian McKellen’s performance as Sir Leigh Teabing, a scholar of the Holy Grail, is by far the best of the film, but Alfred Molina, who plays an Opus Dei leader, still just looks like Doc Ock from “Spiderman 2.” Paul Bettany’s Silas, an Opus Dei monk, is off-kilter, but he accomplishes one thing: a memorable nude scene where he whips himself bloody.

As for all the religious buzz about the movie, it’s just that – a movie. Howard stuck to his word and did not place a disclaimer in the film as religious organizations had requested, saying that anyone should be able to recognize a movie as a form of entertainment.

For those fans who have already cracked “The Da Vinci Code” – the novel – don’t be too let down. There’s still plenty to see, such as Tautou’s perfectly arched cheekbones, and Hank’s unusual pallet of hair. While you ponder these things, enjoy that popcorn, because “The Da Vinci Code” means that summer, in all its blockbuster glory, is here.

“The Da Vinci Code” is currently in theaters nationwide.

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