Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune:
How can a film contain so many clues yet remain utterly clueless? The screen adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code” treats the Dan Brown novel with a reverence it does not deserve and from which it does not benefit. The film was directed by Ron Howard in a style to be named later, and the screenplay by Akiva Goldsman can’t get three sentences out without resorting to expositional set-ups such as “Ah, the Grand Gallery …” or “Opus Dei. What is that?” “A controversial Catholic sect.” And before you know it, the movie has died another death trying to explain it all for you.
The movie version is so intent on taking its mystical and religious business seriously, at an overfull 2½ hours, it forgets to be entertaining. And it sets some sort of record for number of endings in a single picture. I counted 666. Wait a minute. Isn’t that number some sort of symbol?
Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Confidential:
… it’s a fairly flat sit. A camera crew came up to me after the screening and I said, “It’s not that deep. In fact, it’s not that good. In fact, it’s kind of plodding. In fact…”
I shrugged my shoulders and said it wasn’t painful, because it isn’t. But it sure as hell doesn’t lift off the runway. I didn’t hate it, but I was never that aroused.
It has a few chases, a couple of killings, one or two 180 character turns…but it’s Howard’s worst film since Far and Away.
… director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have conspired to drain any sense of fun out of the melodrama, leaving expectant audiences with an oppressively talky film that isn’t exactly dull but comes as close to it as one could imagine with such provocative material; result is perhaps the best thing the project’s critics could have hoped for.
But wait… there’s more.
What one is left with is high-minded lurid material sucked dry by a desperately solemn approach….
Part of the quick deflation is due to a palpable lack of chemistry between Hanks and Tautou, an odd thing in itself given their genial accessibility in many previous roles. Howard … makes them both look stiff, pasty and inexpressive here in material that provides them little opportunity to express basic human nature… It’s a film so overloaded with plot that there’s no room for anything else, from emotion to stylistic grace notes.
The Cannes audience clearly grew restless as the movie dragged on to two and a half hours and spun a long sequence of anticlimactic revelations.
“I kept thinking of the Energizer Bunny, because it kept going and going and going, and not in a good way,” said James Rocchi, a film critic for CBS 5 television in San Francisco and the online outlet Cinematical. “Ron Howard makes handsome films. He doesn’t make bad ones, but he doesn’t make great ones.”
Some people walked out during the movie’s closing minutes, though there were fewer departures than many Cannes movies provoke among harsh critics. When the credits rolled, there were a few whistles and hisses, and there was none of the scattered applause even bad movies sometimes receive at Cannes.
“I didn’t like it very much. I thought it was almost as bad as the book. Tom Hanks was a zombie. Thank goodness for Ian McKellen. It was overplayed, there was too much music and it was much too grandiose,” said Peter Brunette, critic for the US daily The Boston Globe.
“At the high point, there was laughter among the journalists. Not loud laughs, but a snicker and I think that says it all,” said Gerson Da Cunha from The Times of India.
Other critics said the two and a half hour film was confusing to those who hadn’t read the book.
“People were confused, there was no applause, just silence,” said Margherita Ferrandino from the Italian television Rai 3.
“I have only read half the book, and then I got bored. It’s terrible,” she added.
“It was really disappointing. The dialogue was cheesy. The acting wasn’t too bad, but the film is not as good as the book,” added Lina Hamchaoui, from British radio IRN.
And some Belgian reporter from Cannes named Chris Craps:
“It’s a complete mess. They didn’t show it to anybody, and now you see why. I bet Ron Howard knew it was quite shaky and that it didn’t work. They knew very well. But now a lot of people are going to see it, and the news that it’s not working is going to come too late to them. But the second week will drop off completely. It will be a real Poseidon.”
Action set pieces, themselves fairly pedestrian, become counterpoints to endless exposition scenes and no amount of sweeping camera moves can cover what is essentially a filmed lecture. Howard is faithful enough to the novel to ensure that all of the most interesting theories translate intact, but watching these characters drone them out one after enough until the film’s final moments is far from fascinating.
That the book’s key selling point is the story it wraps itself around is enough to save its film adaptation from sheer tedium, but while character can possibly be secondary to plot in a novel, on screen such a stance is destined to failure. We’re no more enlightened about Robert Langdon and his co-conspirators at the film’s end than we are as they’re first introduced.
Perhaps an interesting side-piece to those already fanatical about the book, the film version of The Da Vinci Code is ultimately a flawed and lifeless adaptation. There’s nothing technically wrong with Howard’s film, but Brown’s approach to the novel is essentially untranslatable and that’s perhaps more a criticism of the book than the film.
Ron Howard knows how to ratchet up the tension in a movie; witness Apollo 13 and Backdraft. But here, instead of the film building to a white knuckle conclusion, it was the audience fidgeting as Da Vinci passed the two-hour mark and unveiled the first of its half-dozen endings. So much so that by the time the big climactic moment of the film finally arrived, the audience burst out laughing, as if this were yet another classic bit of Tom Hanks comedy. As the credits rolled, not a single bit of applause was heard.
Afterwards, as critics from around the world poured out of the Debussy, they were swarmed by two dozen camera crews looking, finally, for the first whiff of reaction to the long-awaited adaptation of Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller. Used to being on the other side of the camera, these members of the Fifth Estate could only shake their heads in astonishment, complaining about how many times Hanks and Tautou seemed to conveniently avoid capture by French police. Or, how a majority of the two-and-a-half-hour film seemed to be about endless historical exposition, most of which was presented so fast that in the end it seemed to confuse rather than enlighten the audience.
It’s safe to say that most of this Friday’s reviews of The Da Vinci Code will deem the flick a disaster. Critics from large U.S. media outlets were overheard tonight in Cannes calling the film a “snore”, a “bore” and giving it an Ebert & Roeper-worthy big thumbs down.
Sounds like Tom Hanks’ bad hairstyle is the least of the movie’s problems.
The filmmakers have been so willing to play Judas: disgrace the name of Christ for money, and turn him over to the masses. I do hope, for their sake, that they don’t finish out their portrayal of Judas. He didn’t handle his failure very well.
Of course, he had enough conscience to realize the evil in what he’d done… so there’s a point in his favor.