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DA VINCI CODE's Online Blackout... DeCoded & The Film Is Dull???

Hey folks, Harry here - with some sad news. I was really looking forward to THE DA VINCI CODE. The cast looks amazing, it has one of my top 3 favorite actors in the world, Ian McKellen and one of my top oogle worthy actresses in the world, Audrey Tautou ... as well as the wonderful Tom Hanks and a ton of other talent. It was being shot by the steady Ron Howard and written by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman... ahem. I was invited to a late screening on Thursday night for this film, but Thursday night happens to be the birthday party of a dear friend - which I had already committed to attending. But I wasn't worried, because there was a screening last night at 7:30pm and another one this morning at 10am here in town. I figured, great, they're enthusiastic about word getting out on the movie, so I contacted Sony Publicity... going through proper channels to see if I could switch to one of these earlier screening... Where I was stonewalled and told that from the HIGHEST LEVELS of Authority at SONY - that INTERNET OUTLETS were forbidden to see the film until Thursday night... that print outlets were only allowed into those first two screenings.

Wow. Hadn't run into that policy since about 1999. I'm friendly with just about every theater owner in town and thought about just crashing one of the screenings, but then I found out that the Alamo Drafthouse South was screening a British print of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - with their waitresses dressed up in Alex's droogs gear and I thought... Ah, fuck it. I'll see it this weekend.

Didn't really give it a lot of thought until I read the reviews over at Hollywood Reporter and Variety that came in from CANNES tonight. Kirk Honeycutt says, ""Da Vinci" never rises to the level of a guilty pleasure. Too much guilt. Not enough pleasure." and Variety's Todd McCarthy states, "Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman have conspired to drain any sense of fun out of the melodrama, leaving expectant audiences with an oppressively talky film that isn't exactly dull, but comes as close to it as one could imagine with such provocative material"

OUCH! Apparently the only character that is at all alive according to these two is... big surprise... Ian McKellen, who doesn't appear till about halfway through the apparently plodding affair that clocks in at nearly 2 and a half hours.

One can only assume that SONY's blanket treatment of "online outlets" is to "damage control" the word of mouth that one of this years most anticipated films... may not be all of that. Of course... the trades have been terribly off-base when it comes to "Pop-fare" and maybe this is one of those cases where all the stodgy lecture like scenes will play like revelations to the audiences at large. I know I'm going this weekend, just to see what it is all about. Glad to have my expectations checked.

Meanwhile - here's a British reader's look at the film based on a screening there last night. Nowhere near as negative as the trades - but not overly enthusiastic either. Beware of spoilers...

Hey Harry,

British insider ?Triple B? here. Been a while since I wrote to you, but sneaked in to the UK screening of Da Vinci Code last night and thought I?d give you my opinion.

First off, I?m a big fan of the book. I read it in a couple of days whilst on Holiday, simply couldn?t put it down which is a big deal to me considering I?m not a big reader. Fortunately, I read the book before any casting on the movie was announced so I didn?t have any annoying preconceptions of Hollywood?s elite racing through my head as I read (Weirdly, I always saw Richard Attenborough in the Ian McKellen role).

For those wanting a quick summery, all I can say is that it?s a solid if not spectacular translation of the book. In actually believe that Ron Howard was the perfect choice of director for this one. He?s always competent behind the lens and usually delivers a well constructed movie. It may sound a little harsh to call him ?safe? but in my opinion that?s exactly what he is. Safe, dependable and not one to wildly stray too far from the subject matter at hand. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised just how faithfully they converted the book. Predictably however conceits have been made

The book worked so well for me thanks to Dan Brown?s masterful concoction of facts, science and historic research blended with a good old fashioned yarn. Now this movie ran for well over two hours but even at that length a lot of the science and interesting historical background work was cut leaving the story felling all the more far fetched and coincidental. In fact, my buddy who was with me summed it up best by calling it ?Goonies for Big Boys?. Ron Howard seems determined to keep the movies pace running fast which is admirable but in doing so we never get a true sense of discovery that was so evident in the book, merely a string of events slam in to each other all happening very conveniently and without any apparent work on behalf of our heroes. For example, in the book our hero actually NEEDS to do research. He goes to a library, befriends the librarian and sits to do research where he discovers a vital piece of information. It?s logical, well paced and interesting to follow. In the movie version our hero uses a mobile phone to access the internet (In true Hollywood style) and discover all he needs to know in under 30 seconds from google! This example of lazy plot structure stretches credibility and believability and really works against the films story. Because of the condensed nature of the books events, characters sadly suffer to. (Small spoilers lie ahead) We are hardly given any explanation as to why Sophie?s relationship with her grandfather was so strained and tragically in order to tone down the book?s contents for a teen audience, Silas?s back story is brief at best. Silas in fact comes off worst in the move to film. His scenes portray him more as a Scooby Doo villain than that of the horrifically misguided psycho that he should be. Paul Bettany does all he can and delivers a fair performance but I felt that both his and Alfred Molina roles were underdeveloped and thus quite confusing to those who haven?t read the book.

When I heard of Tom Hank?s casting I was initially against it, however it must be said that as Hollywood?s leading ?everyman? he once again brings it to the table. He doesn?t have to do much at all other than stand around looking confused and deliver long speeches about codes and symbols, but that being said he does what he does well and adds a little star power to the cast. Ian McKellen deserves special mention however. Excellent as always he was the perfect choice for the role and is never anything less than likeable, if not slightly unbelievable thanks to the relentless pace set by film and the series of events that follows. Jean Reno also stood out as a perfect casting choice; we saw plenty of him though it?s to his credit that I could have happily seen more of him on screen. Audrey Tatou proves relentlessly beautiful and unlike many of Hollywood?s A list, she has no problem delivering a believable performance. Once again though, I think she suffered through a lack of character development.

Whilst never dull, Ron Howard uses some of the same tricks and visual flair that he developed in A Beautiful Mind, ?Visualizing? characters thought processes to allow the audience to ?see? what they are thinking. This largely works though in the movie Robert comes off more of a genius savant than I remember him to be in the book.

Still, all in all, I did enjoy the film and probably would have liked it more if I hadn?t read the book. This movie is exactly what it needs to be to make a lot of cash at the box office. Solid, dependable, at times exciting though never risky, daring or even controversial enough to prove great. Go see, but don?t expect too much

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