Critics crucify 'Da Vinci Code' in Cannes

17th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 17, 2006 (AFP) - Critics on Wednesday crucified Hollywood's hotly awaited film of the runaway bestseller 'The Da Vinci Code' ahead of its glittering premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

CANNES, France, May 17, 2006 (AFP) - Critics on Wednesday crucified Hollywood's hotly awaited film of the runaway bestseller 'The Da Vinci Code' ahead of its glittering premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Several disappointed whistles instead of applause were all that greeted the end of Ron Howard's 125-million-dollar film, and, worse, the 2,000-strong audience even burst out laughing at the movie's key moment.

Daily Variety, the top Hollywood trade magazine, gave it a blistering review, saying the novel which has sold some 50 million copies worldwide "has become a stodgy, grim thing in its exceedingly literal-minded film version."

Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman "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."

And it added there was "a palpable lack of chemistry" between co-stars Tom Hanks and French actress Audrey Tautou.

"I didn't like it very much. I thought it was almost as bad as the book. Tom Hanks was a zombie, thank goodness for Ian McKellen. It was overplayed, there was too much music and it was much too grandiose," Peter Brunette, critic for the US daily The Boston Globe, told AFP.

The film version of Dan Brown's book premieres in Cannes later Wednesday at a red-carpet opening ceremony for the 59th film festival to be attended by a galaxy of stars.

"I haven't read any of the reviews, and I don't know ... if any of the others might be slightly more upbeat," director Ron Howard told a packed press conference at the Cannes Film Festival.

"I've made a lot of commercial films and I really stopped prognosticating a long time ago," he added.

"I choose films because the subject has fascinated me and I would like to spend a year and a half or two years of my life telling that story. The book is high-profile, a lot of people are interested in it and I certainly hope it's very successful."

But Howard, Hanks and all, who in a much hyped publicity stunt arrived in Cannes on Tuesday on a special train from London, were in for a tough ride at the movie's press conference.

In a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, Hanks plays symbologist Robert Langdon, called in after the curator of the Louvre is found murdered, his body splayed out covered in symbols.

Langdon and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, played by Tautou, find themselves ensnared in a hunt to track down the murderer and solve a 2,000-year-old riddle.

The book has already been translated into 44 languages and spawned a spin-off tourist industry as well as whipping up a controversy. All ingredients to ensure that despite the poor reviews it will still undoubtedly draw early crowds.

The greatest controversy has been stirred by the book's central theme that Jesus Christ married and had children whose descendants still survive today.

Thus book's detractors will no doubt be comforted to hear that when Hanks reveals who is supposedly the last surviving descendant of Jesus, the Cannes audience couldn't hold back their laughter.

"At the high point, there was laughter among the journalists. Not loud laughs, but a snicker and I think that says it all," said Gerson Da Cunha from The Times of India.

Despite being filmed against the backdrop of some of Paris's and London's most impressive and historic buildings — Howard even gained permission to film inside the Louvre — the film fails to convince, becoming more of a drama-documentary with its overuse of historic flashbacks.

"People were confused, there was no applause, just silence," said Margherita Ferrandino from the Italian television Rai 3.

"It was really disappointing. The dialogue was cheesy. The acting wasn't too bad, but the film is not as good as the book," added Lina Hamchaoui, from British radio IRN.

Online reviewer for, Joe Utichi, agreed that the book was better.

"The film version of The Da Vinci Code is ultimately a flawed and lifeless adaptation," he wrote.

"There's nothing technically wrong with Howard's film, but Brown's approach to the novel is essentially untranslatable and that's perhaps more a criticism of the book than the film."

Hanks indeed seems to get bogged down in the interminable dialogue, whereas Tautou, so brilliant in 'Amélie', fails to make an impression.

British actor Sir Ian McKellan however received plaudits for his portrayal of Holy Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing, playing his role with the right amount of wit and humour.

And Paul Bettany is suitably menacing as a self-flagellating albino monk on a mission to kill.

Blooper fans will also have fun spotting some of the errors in a Paris chase scene.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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