Notes from the back row 

Breaking the code

Jesus was married, had a kid, and most of Christian history is a sham. The Da Vinci Code, proposing just that, sold a gazillion books and is now a star-studded movie directed by journeyman Ron Howard.

People are protesting and everyone has their panties in a bunch. Except Mary Magdaline because, well, she’s dead, and even if she wasn’t she didn’t wear panties anyhow, she was a whore, and a fine one at that. Or was she? Maybe not, it’s a mystery, a secret worth killing over, dying over, and worth making a 2 hour 45 minute movie over. At least that’s what The Da Vinci Code, opening this Friday at the good old Village 8, would like us to believe… ‘So dark the con of Man.’

The Da Vinci Code is about a Harvard symbologist (Tom Hanks as someone who knows a lot about symbols – religious or otherwise – and has crappy hair) who teams up with a French police cryptologist (Audrey Tatou as almost the same thing except better at crosswords) to solve the murder of the curator of the Louvre, who seems to have been involved in a secret society that a conservative arm of the Catholic Church appears to be trying to wipe out due to the fact that said society may know what and where the Holy Grail is and if that sucker comes to surface it could be very damaging to 2000 years of Christian cover-ups.

Sound confusing? Then toss a crap load of historical info, religious theories, and some cutesy word games on top of a slow moving plot and you have what Ron Howard hopes is the biggest hit of the summer. Not gonna happen.

First of all, the novel is 489 pages of people explaining stuff to each other while they sit around, in a house, in a car, on a plane, standing in a bathroom, etc. The historical, artistic and religious theories they’re talking about are interesting and with a basic mystery plot and some of the most pedestrian prose I’ve ever read the book manages to remain interesting.

But who wants to watch a movie of people about people explaining shit to each other, sometimes twice? The action sequences are whatever, and although the shots and art direction are great (Paris and the Louvre look key), in the end it’s all just fodder cut into what is essentially a filmed lecture. Plot and backstory carry the book, but on screen you need character development. The book had none, the movie doesn’t either. Too bad because, other than Hanks, the cast is a director’s wet dream – Tatou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany – all do a good job with what they’re given. Unfortunately they aren’t given much.

Howard didn’t do too badly with what he was given either, though. This book, especially after so much hype and notoriety, is too yappy and relies heavily on its historical research. It lacks the sort of things that might make an interesting movie, like character arcs or dirty French sex.

Speaking of dirty, as in dirty varmints, check out the newest excellently animated, geared-for-kids-but-still-worth-watching, simple, adventure flick Over the Hedge, which also opens Friday. Bruce Willis stars as the voice of a shady raccoon who tricks a bunch of fresh-out-of-hibernation animals to pillage the new urban-sprawl human suburb that sprung up over the winter. On the other side of a giant hedge lies all kinds of great things, like cheese puffs and cookies, but danger awaits as well, and the raccoon might not be playing it straight with the turtle, the skunk, or even the possums. So dark the con of Raccoon.

AT VILLAGE 8 May 19-25: Da Vinci Code; Over the Hedge; Mission Impossible 3; Just My Luck; Poseidon; United 93; RV.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE May 19-25:

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