In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I’m among the few not to have read Dan Brown’s wildly popular bestseller “The Da Vinci Code.” Nor did I pay much attention to the controversy created or the companion works and documentaries that sprang up in the book’s wake.

Nonetheless, I entered the movie theater Sunday with a degree of familiarity regarding the story. Given the media glare afforded the “Da Vinci” craze over the last two years, one would be hard pressed not to have at least heard of the book and surrounding hoopla.

For those still not in the know, the book, and now film, suggests that Jesus was, instead of the divine son of God, just a regular guy who taught love and peace, for sure, but also married, fathered children and eventually died as normal people tend to do. The church went on to distort facts and create myth to consolidate power, control the masses and keep bingo night going, or something like that, the story goes.

Naturally, such a premise led many to believe a grand conspiracy had been uncovered, others to scream blasphemy from the rooftops and Brown’s bank account to expand exponentially.

Which also naturally led to the inevitable over-hyped Hollywood adaptation directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. The result is a long, rather dull, film making the “Da Vinci” sensation appear much ado about nothing.

In the film, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) — through events too complicated and uninteresting to address here — falls into a murder mystery and religious-conspiracy treasure hunt after a sinister, hooded albino murders a curator at the Louvre but not before the victim manages to place elaborate, coded clues throughout the museum.

Questions such as how the murderer managed to roam undetected through the Louvre in the middle of the night — surely that place must have a few guards and a security camera or two — and why the dying curator didn’t forego the goofy puzzle clues and just write a note explaining what happened go unaddressed.

Langdon and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) subsequently team up to evade police and bad guys while crisscrossing Paris and England and, miraculously, solve puzzles that had eluded 2000 years of speculation, in a matter of days.

The pair discover that historic events and Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting point toward the truth about Jesus and the church’s subsequent cover up. The film is hardly a serious meditation on the origins of Christianity, however. Much like Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” the movie spins conjecture and theory from actual events then casually grows fuzzy when it comes to offering hard evidence linking the two.

Which would be forgivable if “The Da Vinci Code” at least offered summer, popcorn-movie escapist fun. And, with all the trap doors, secret passages and car chases involved, the film does come off as the Gospel According to Indiana Jones and James Bond at times.

Except that those guys are fun. Here we just get Hanks and Tautou standing around looking dour and perplexed while generating zero chemistry and little character development.

By the time the film’s visible-a-mile-away revelations arrive, those not bored into stupor will likely have considered sneaking across the hall into another movie.

All the surrounding hype and controversy should guarantee big box office returns for “The Da Vinci Code.” The better bet is to wait for the DVD, or a better movie.



Matt Smith can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or msmith@trcle.com.

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