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 (games and action figures are sure to follow). 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 story is concocted of such a preposterous formula of elements that you wouldn't envy Akiva Goldsman, the screenwriter who was handed a potentially unfilmable book and asked to make a filmable script out of it. Goldsman's solution was to have the screenplay follow the book as closely as possible, with a few needed changes, including a better ending. The result is a film that actually makes slightly better entertainment than the book.
So if you're like most of the world, by now you've read the book and know that it starts out as a murder mystery. While lecturing in Paris, noted Harvard Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the Louvre by French police help decipher a bizarre series of clues left at the scene of the murder of the chief curator, Jacques Sauniere. Enter Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), gifted cryptologist and Sauniere's granddaughter. Neveu and Langdon are forced to team up to solve the mystery, and from there the story is propelled across Europe as it balloons into a modern-day mini-quest for the Holy Grail, complete with alternative theories about the life of Christ, ancient secret societies headed by historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, secret codes, conniving bishops, daring escapes, car chases, and, of course, a murderous albino monk controlled by a secret master who calls himself "The Teacher."
Taken solely as a mystery thriller, the movie almost works--despite some gaping holes--mostly just because it keeps moving forward at the breakneck pace set in the book. Brown's greatest trick might have been to have the entire story take place in a day so that the action is forced to keep going, despite some necessary pauses for exposition. Hanks and Tautou are just fine together but not exactly a memorable screen pair; meanwhile, Sir Ian McKellen's scenery-chewing as pivotal character Sir Leigh Teabing is just what the film needs to keep it from taking itself too seriously. In the end, this hit movie is just like a good roller-coaster ride: try not to think too much about it--just sit back and enjoy the trip. --Daniel Vancini, Amazon.com