Critics and controversy aside, The Da Vinci Code is a verifiable blockbuster. Combine the film's huge worldwide box-office take with over 100 million copies of Dan Brown's book sold, and The Da Vinci Code has clearly made the leap from pop-culture hit to a certifiable franchise. The leap for any story making the move from book to big screen, however, is always more perilous. In the case of The Da Vinci Code, the plot is concocted of such a preposterous formula of elements that you wouldn’t envy screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, the man tasked with making this story filmable. The script follows Dan Brown’s book as closely as possible while incorporating a few needed changes, including a better ending. And if you’re like most of the world, by now you’ve read the book and know how it goes: while lecturing in Paris, noted Harvard Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the Louvre by French police to help decipher a bizarre series of clues left at the scene of the murder of the chief curator. Enter Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), gifted cryptologist. Neveu and Langdon team up to solve the mystery, and from there the story is propelled across Europe, ballooning into a modern-day mini-quest for the Holy Grail, where secret societies are discovered, codes are broken, and murderous albino monks are thwarted… oh, and alternative theories about the life of Christ and the beginnings of Christianity are presented too, of course. It’s not the typical formula for a stock Hollywood thriller. In fact, taken solely as a mystery, the movie almost works--despite some gaping holes--mostly just because it keeps moving. Brown’s greatest trick was to have the entire story take place in one day, so the action is forced to keep moving, despite some necessary pauses for exposition. As a screen couple, Hanks and Tautou are just fine together but not exactly memorable; meanwhile Sir Ian McKellen’s scenery-chewing as pivotal character Sir Leigh Teabing is just what the film needed to keep it from taking itself too seriously. The whole thing is like a good roller-coaster ride: try not to think too much about it--just sit back and enjoy the trip. --Daniel Vancini
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On The DVD The DVD extras on a film as popular as The Da Vinci Code should be plentiful, and this version doesn’t skimp. With over 90 minutes of special features, including ten behind-the-scenes featurettes, there’s a lot here to explore beyond the film itself. The question is, is there anything new here that we haven’t heard before, in all the hype, pseudo-documentaries, and controversy surrounding the movie, to make it worthwhile? For most viewers, the answer will be "yes." Essentially, if you like the movie, if you enjoyed the book, you will get a lot out of them.
Just as the movie is intended to make the book come to life, the DVD extras should make the film come to life by pointing the audience into the world of the filmmakers, connecting the dots between print and film, and for the most part they do just that. The extras here range from the typical look behind-the-scenes to more in-depth features on the supporting characters, the locations, and the Mona Lisa herself. "First Day on the Set with Ron Howard" features the director gushing about the opportunity to film in the Louvre and work with Tom Hanks again (the two worked together before on Splash and Apollo 13). It’s a short piece that doesn’t reveal much beyond making an attempt to share Howard’s excitement (with the "Gee, I really loved working with him/her on this project" that you hear in every such featurette), but viewers might enjoy seeing how the stage was set up in the famous museum, down to the spike tape on the floor showing actors where to hit their marks. The Filmmaking Experience, Parts 1 and 2 further explores the creative and technical aspects of the filmmaking process. A Conversation with Dan Brown starts out feeling like a puff-piece (the man who wrote this book got started at age 5 with a story called The Giraffe, The Pig, and the Pants on Fire. "It was a thriller," he says.) and unfortunately it doesn’t go very deep into much of anything of interest. But on the other hand, this isn’t 60 Minutes here; it’s intended to give viewers a better sense of the man behind the franchise, which it does. Much of the footage from this interview is sprinkled throughout some of the other featurettes. Meanwhile, the character behind the franchise, Robert Langdon, is examined in his own featurette, as is Sophie Neveu. The cool thing here is getting under the skin of the actors to see how they approached the characters, knowing that most of the movie-going public already has formed their own ideas about the characters from the book.
The most interesting extras are the featurettes that focus on the history behind the mystery. Or is it the mystery behind the history? Either way, the first one on the Mona Lisa, and the second featurette on the many codes and symbols that are hidden throughout the movie balance out the remainder of the extras nicely by demonstrating the sense of intrigue, mystery, and game-playing adventure that made The Da Vinci Code so popular in the first place. --Daniel Vancini
Beyond The Da Vinci Code
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Dan Brown's international bestseller comes alive in the film The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. Join symbologist Robert Langdon (Academy Award® Winner Tom Hanks, 1993 Best Actor, Philadelphia, and 1994 Best Actor, Forrest Gump) and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) in their heart-racing quest to solve a bizarre murder mystery that will take them from France to England – and behind the veil of a mysterious ancient society, where they discover a secret protected since the time of Christ. With first-rate performances by Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina and Jean Reno, critics are calling The Da Vinci Code "involving" and "intriguing," "a first rate thriller."
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