The Da Vinci Load

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen The Da Vinci Code but you’re planning to, and you don’t want the surprise ruined, please read no further, OK? OK, so here’s the deal on The Da Vinci Code: It stinks.

The most compelling mystery about this movie is why Tom Hanks agreed to appear in it in the first place, although one suspects that the best parts of his performance may have ended up on the barbershop floor. How tepid was Hanks’ own turn here as Professor Robert Langdon? Let’s just say it’s not likely to inspire a generation of idealistic youngsters to go off to college and major in symbology.

I’m no expert—I only minored in symbology, with a concentration in imaginary academic fields—but I believe the symbol that best describes this film’s attitude towards its audience is located between the index and ring fingers of the human hand. The Da Vinci Code is inane on levels not generally observed in movies without the word “Ernest” in the title. Even if all of the information presented as historical fact in this movie was true—and most of it is not—the basic story would still not make any sense. In fact, if this is your idea of a “thriller,” let me recommend another title I’m sure you’ll enjoy: the instructional video for a new Dyson vacuum cleaner, which also never loses suction. This film may be the first of a brand-new genre: the “special needs” thriller. And I don’t mean to suggest that The Da Vinci Code was boring, but about 20 minutes into it I began encouraging the people sitting around me in the theater to talk louder.

Unlike Ron Howard I’ll spare you an hour and a half of exposition and dispense with the “mystery” of The Da Vinci Code right now: The premise of the film/book is that all of Christianity is a sham based on a lie because Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalen (although I believe He still referred to her as “my old lady”), and the two of them had a child. That’s it. That’s the whole enchilada, the dirt that had to be suppressed at any cost. Frankly I was expecting something a little more shocking. Like maybe a Crying Game-type situation, or maybe that Jesus was a Republican who favored school choice or something cuckoo like that.

You see, unlike both Dan Brown and the makers of this film, I have a working knowledge of basic Christian doctrine, the crux of which is that Jesus Christ was both man and God. We know (or so the story goes) that Jesus was mortal because He died on the cross. We know He was God because of His many miracles and because He rose from the dead. Thus, Jesus was both man and God at the same time, which is the central mystery of Christianity.

How would His having been married, or having been a father, have negated either His humanity or His divinity? The answer is, of course, not at all. Which makes the premise of this book/movie, coincidentally enough, a sham based on a series of lies. Other than that, though, it pretty much holds up…other than the other minor inconsistency that if the evil Opus Dei fanatics knew that their church, and their vocations, were all based on lies, why would they fight so hard to save them? Maybe they just really, really liked wearing vestments, having no net worth, and going to Vespers? Or perhaps the safe refuge of priestly celibacy was the ultimate expression of their collective fear of commitment. As Dr. Phil might say, somebody around here has got a lot of growing up to do—and I think it’s you, Padre!

If you’re still reading this I take it you’re not planning on seeing The Da Vinci Code, so as a public service let me walk you through the viewing experience you’ve so wisely spared yourself. The first part of the movie—let’s call it C.S.I.: Da Vinci—is when they find a dead body at the Louvre and we hear a lot of expositionary voice-overs describing the crime scene, a storytelling technique better suited for radio. Here’s where we meet the French cop (Jean Reno) who thinks Tom Hanks is the murderer based on a tip from his bishop. (The last French detective this clueless I saw in a movie was known as Inspector Clouseau.) This is followed by the first of several escapes in which Tom Hanks disguises himself as one of his would-be captors and gets away when they’re distracted. Think of this as the first The Silence of the Da Vinci portion of the movie. Then there’s the obligatory chase scene involving a tiny, eco-friendly European car driven in reverse, a sequence undoubtedly known to the second unit director assigned this thankless task as The Da Vinci Identity. At this point if you’re a human being you’re on your way to the theater lobby in search of something caffeinated to drink while on-screen Ian McKellan gobbles scenery like he’s going to the electric chair—which, after this performance, is at least a defensible idea. This is followed by the third or fourth Silence of the Lambs-type escape which morphs into another car chase—let’s call it The Da Vinci Supremacy portion of today’s feature—after which you fall into a deep, well-earned sleep until the usher shakes you awake and you stumble out of the multiplex and into the light of day, minus nine dollars and two and a half hours of your life.

The main thing I took away from The Da Vinci Code is this: With some 60 million copies of the book version in print, most of them presumably sold in airport terminal bookstores, can there be any doubt that we as a society need to make hanging around in our airport terminals a much more interesting experience? What does it say about us that visitors to U.S. airports are so bored they’re reduced to reading dreck like The Da Vinci Code while waiting for that next over-booked flight? Come on, America—we can do better.

There is one group who are particularly incensed at the way in which they’re portrayed in The Da Vinci Code and, yes, I’m talking about the albinos. Or as they now prefer to be called, the “people of no color”. The Albino-American community objects to the fact that there’s only one albino in The Da Vinci Code, and that—surprise!—he’s the bad guy. I think they have a legitimate beef. For too long albinos have been negatively stereotyped in movies as either the bad guy (e.g., the monk in Da Vinci, the gunman in The Firm), as random mutants in horror films, or as members of bands like Abba. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a dream that someday we might judge one another by the content of our character, not by the lack of color in our skin. But as I say, it’s only a dream.

Anyway, that’s my take. I hope it’s been helpful, and that I haven’t overlooked anything important because I don’t plan on trying to sit through The Da Vinci Code again anytime soon. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I’ve never been one for self-mortification.