"Da Vinci Code"
Secret Is Out:
Most Critics Hate It
By REUTERS, from the
NYTimes on the Web, May 18, 2006
CANNES, France, May 17 -- Most
critics panned "The Da Vinci Code" on Wednesday ahead of the world premiere of
the year's most eagerly awaited movie.
Kicking off the annual Cannes film festival, Ron Howard's adaptation of the Dan
Brown bestseller was described variously as "grim," "unwieldy" and "plodding,"
though one reviewer bucked the trend and said "You'll Louvre It!"
The cool reception was temporarily forgotten at a glitzy opening ceremony, where
screen legend Sidney Poitier and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai joined Da Vinci
Code star Tom Hanks and the normally publicity-shy Brown on the red carpet.
Even before its general release on May 18 and 19, The Da Vinci Code generated
controversy as Christians around the world called for it to be banned.
The novel has enraged religious groups because one of its characters argues that
Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child by her, and that elements
within the Catholic Church resorted to murder to hide the truth.
In Thailand on Wednesday, a police-run censorship board overturned an earlier
decision to cut the last 10 minutes of the film, but insisted the distributor
add disclaimers stating it was fiction.
In Ireland, volunteers plan to distribute free copies of a special edition of
The Irish Catholic newspaper outside cinemas showing The Da Vinci Code over the
A Vatican cardinal has called for a boycott of the picture, and the Indian
government said it would show the movie to Christian groups before clearing its
release. In the mainly Catholic Philippines censors gave it an "adult
Howard and Hanks defended the film at a news conference, saying it was a piece
of fiction. British actor Alfred Molina, who plays a Machiavellian bishop
in the movie, blamed the media for creating controversy where there was little
LAUGHTER, THEN SILENCE
At a screening late on Tuesday in Cannes, members of the audience laughed at the
thriller's pivotal moment, and the end of the $125 million picture was greeted
with stony silence.
Trade publication Variety had barely a nice word to say.
"A pulpy page-turner in its original incarnation as a huge international
bestseller has become a stodgy, grim thing in the exceedingly literal-minded
film version of The Da Vinci Code," wrote Todd McCarthy.
Lee Marshall of Screen International agreed.
"I haven't read the book, but I just thought there was a ridiculous amount of
exposition," he said. "I thought it was plodding and there was a complete
lack of chemistry between Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks."
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post was far more upbeat:
"Ron Howard's splendid The Da Vinci Code is the Holy Grail of summer
blockbusters: a crackling, fast-moving thriller that's every bit as brainy
and irresistible as Dan Brown's controversial bestseller."
Critics say the controversy surrounding the film, and the fact more than 40
million people have bought the book, will ensure a strong box office
performance, but they believe word-of-mouth is likely to hit sales later on.
The movie industry will be watching The Da Vinci Code particularly closely after
the first two summer blockbusters -- "Mission: Impossible III" and
"Poseidon" -- stumbled.
Howard had some advice for those who objected to the story.
"There's no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people.
My advice is ... to not go and see the movie if you think you're going to be
Ian McKellen, an openly gay actor who plays Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code,
tried to make light of the controversy.
"I'm very happy to believe that Jesus was married," he said. "I know the
Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be
absolute proof that Jesus was not gay."
The opening ceremony and Da Vinci Code premiere kick off 12 hectic days of
screenings, interviews, photocalls and partying in Cannes, the world's biggest