The Da Vinci Code
Steamy pagan sex rites, crazed cultist priests, a self-flagellating albino monk assassin (Paul Bettany), the Inquisition, and a luminously yowza Audrey Tautou in a severe, tight, leg-revealing, thin gabardine cop suit—only a director as congenitally nice, tasteful, and doggedly workmanlike as Ron Howard could take such promisingly fevered elements and come up with something so ponderous, so, well, dull. Although the many cloak-and-dagger plot twists and historical digressions render proper synopsis impossible, The Da Vinci Code, to paraphrase Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly, is really just about a bunch of guys (a secret Catholic cabal) who’ll do anything to get their hands on the Big Whatsit (the Holy Grail)—or, failing that, stopping crypto-historian Tom Hanks and Tautou’s minxy Paris police officer from finding it. Only Ian McKellen—playing a wily Grail historian—realizes the material for the lurid trash it is, penetrating the movie’s self-important murk with a delightfully scene-chewing turn. Otherwise, Howard’s movie behaves as if it only realized very late in the project that its basic thesis about superior mystical feminism, forbidden Gospels, and a Catholic order bent on world spiritual domination might offend the faithful, and courteously cops out with a closing big-ass prevarication and a dollop of empty-calorie humanism.