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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ron Howard
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, Jean-Yves Berteloot, Etienne Chicot
Writing Credits:
Akiva Goldsman, Dan Brown (novel)

Tagline:
Seek The Truth.

Synopsis:
Dan Brown's international bestseller comes alive in the film The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. Join symbologist Robert Langdon (Academy Award Winner Tom Hanks) and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) in their heart-racing quest to solve a bizarre murder mystery that will take them from France to England - and behind the veil of a mysterious ancient society, where they discover a secret protected since the time of Christ. With first-rate performances by Sir Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina and Jean Reno, critics are calling The Da Vinci Code "involving", "intriguing", and "a first rate thriller."

Box Office:
Budget
$125 million.
Opening Weekend
$77.073 million on 3735 screens.
Domestic Gross
$217.536 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 149 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/14/2006

Bonus:
Disc One
• Previews
Disc Two
• “First Day on the Set with Ron Howard” Featurette
• “A Discussion with Dan Brown” Featurette
• “A Portrait of Langdon” Featurette
• “Who Is Sophie Neveu?” Featurette
• “Unusual Suspects” Featurette
• “Magical Places” Featurette
• “Close-Up on Mona Lisa” Featurette
• “Filmmaker’s Journey” Documentary
• “The Codes of The Da Vinci Code” Featurette
• “The Music of The Da Vinci Code” Featurette


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The DaVinci Code: Special Edition (Fullscreen) (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 18, 2006)

Before its movie adaptation hit the screens in May 2006, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code had sold upwards of 40 million copies. Doubtless it moved even more units after the flick’s success. Ron Howard’s version of the novel took in a tidy $217 million and wound up as the summer’s fourth biggest biggest release.

Neither before nor after the movie’s arrival did I partake of the Code mania in regard to the book. Snooty as this may sound, when I read, I prefer to learn about real history, not fanciful speculation ala Code. Before the film hit, I was oblivious to the story’s issues, and after it came out, I continued to stay away from the book itself.

Despite my willful avoidance of the novel, I did see Code theatrically. In fact, I took in a screening opening night, as I wanted to check it out before I might read spoilers. Granted, one would think that if I were to find out details about the plot, I’d have had that happen by now. However, since I follow movie news much more than I do book topics, it seemed more likely I might learn spoilers the longer I waited to see the flick.

After I viewed it, I found myself somewhat curious to read the novel. I didn’t feel that way because the cinematic Code entranced me. Instead, I became tempted to inspect the book simply to figure out what caused all the fuss. The film version was such a dud that I couldn’t fathom its source merited all the attention and hype.

At the start of Code, a mysterious monk named Silas (Paul Bettany) murders museum curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle) in the Louvre. Since he and symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) planned a get-together earlier that day for which Saunier didn’t show, the authorities question the Harvard professor.

When that occurs, we learn more about the killing. Before he perished, Sauniere carved symbols into his flesh and also scrawled a message on the museum’s floor. Langdon tries to make sense of these, and Sauniere’s granddaughter Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) assists.

However, things go downhill when chief investigator Captain Bezu Fache (Jean Reno) implicates Langdon in the murder. He and Sophie flee the scene and find themselves caught up in all sorts of theological controversy. It turns out that Sauniere was part of a group that seeks the Holy Grail. Silas, on the other hand, works with folks who want it to stay hidden since they fear it possesses a secret that would destroy the church. The movie follows the efforts of Langdon and Sophie to stay out of the clutches of the cops and to solve the mystery.

Of course, that simplifies matters greatly, as Code possesses a rather twisty plot. Too damned twisty, if you ask me, since so many of its turns feel like curveballs for the sake of curveballs. Lots of story elements pop up out of nowhere and seem contrived. The flick jumps all over the place to keep the viewer off-guard, and it does so mainly to hide its true lack of depth. The emperor has no clothes, so he performs lots of sleight of hand to make sure we don’t notice.

Back when I was a teen in the Eighties, I liked to play computer adventure games. These attempted a rudimentary plot but mostly forced us to figure out all sorts of little puzzles. I encountered a true sense of déjà vu as I watched Code, for I got the feeling those behind it played a lot of adventure games. The film consists of a seemingly endless series of silly riddles and mindbenders that it substitutes for real plot development. Every time we turn around, the characters need to figure out some idiotic conundrum, and they do so with ridiculous ease most of the time. That stuff was fun when I played it on my Apple II, but it gets old quickly on the big screen.

I could easily forgive the silliness of the movie’s conceits and the absurdity of its faux profound messages if only these managed to keep my interest. Unfortunately, Code turns out to be the kind of film that forces me to focus more on my watch than on the screen. At almost two and a half hours, this isn’t a short ride, and it never becomes anything other than tedious.

I wish I could claim that the movie piqued my interest for at least part of its running time, but that would be a lie. It starts with events that don’t seem all that fascinating, and it goes downhill from there. I blame director Ron Howard for this. Never exactly a lively filmmaker, he plays things exceedingly safe and goes out on no limbs.

In fact, I think all the trees in Howard’s yard have no limbs. He sawed them all off to make sure no one would consider climbing the tree and taking any chances. At his best, Howard produces unadventurous but sturdy and entertaining efforts like Apollo 13 or Parenthood. Though Howard seems incapable of creating films with any zest or panache, he at least has the ability to make stalwart pieces.

If ever Howard needed to break from his cautious tendencies, a potboiler like Code would be the right place. Too bad he continues his milquetoast ways here. While Howard’s common man earnestness serves him well with morally unambiguous tales like Apollo 13, it means that he falters badly in the more complex world of Code. This story screams for someone who can zap us with the plot twists and turn its controversies into fodder for discussion. Wouldn’t a David Fincher take on this material have been interesting?

Instead, Howard douses any potential flames faster than the fire-eaters in his Backdraft. He takes the book’s potentially inflammatory efforts and makes them flat as dishwater. There’s nothing daring or inflammatory on display here. Howard neuters any of the story’s ideas and turns them into safe, unprovocative theories.

The movie briefly comes to life when we encounter a Grail hunter played by Ian McKellen. Hanks and Tautou look as bored with their quest as I felt in the audience, so it’s nice to see the zest and fervor McKellen brings to his sneaky character. These moments aren’t quite enough to save the movie, but at least they mean you might not fall asleep during the second act.

“Might not” being the key phrase there. With its excessively convoluted plot rendered impotent by overly safe directing and mostly dull performances, there’s not much to like about The Da Vinci Code. This is boring filmmaking with no spark in the least.


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Da Vinci Code appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Unfortunately, Sony didn’t send me the widescreen DVD for review, though I hope to receive it eventually.

In the meantime, I figured I’d look at the altered version. Since Code was shot Super 35 – a format that allows for “safer” framing of widescreen flicks – I hoped that the fullscreen edition might not suffer from too many compromises. However, that wasn’t the case, and this transfer showed the worst of both worlds.

Some fullscreen transfers of Super 35 handle the transition from widescreen without too much cropping, but that wasn’t the case here. Code consistently looked cramped and too tight. While the image seemed to preserve the basics of the image, the framing never seemed right; the movie turned everything into close-ups and lost much of the needed information.

Even if we get past the framing concerns, the transfer was lackluster. Super 35 tends to be grainy. The combination of the “blown-up” nature of the fullscreen transfer and the many dark shots in the film exacerbated that issue. Code wasn’t tremendously grainy, but it displayed more than I would expect. (The movie used stylistic grain on a few occasions for flashbacks; I didn’t hold those against it.) Other source flaws weren’t a problem, though, as the transfer stayed clean.

Sharpness was bland. The movie exhibited a generally flat appearance without great definition. Though the flick never seemed genuinely fuzzy, it also rarely came across as particularly concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but some mild edge enhancement added to the sense of softness.

With all the dark sequences, shadow detail became more important than usual. The transfer wasn’t up to the movie’s needs, as it rendered low-light shots in a flat manner. These tended to be somewhat thick and opaque, as they lacked much clarity. Blacks seemed acceptable, though they could appear a little muddy at times.

Colors weren’t a major consideration in this film. Code featured a subdued palette most of the time, as it favored those shadowy elements. The film took on a brownish hue much of the time, while brighter tones appeared infrequently. Even when the movie got to daylight for its final hour, the colors stayed withdrawn. The transfer displayed them as designed, so the desaturated look was appropriate. Too bad so much of the rest of the movie seemed problematic. This fullscreen rendition wasn’t a satisfying way to watch the movie.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Da Vinci Code proved more successful. Music dominated the soundfield of this chatty flick. The score showed nice stereo imaging and also used the surrounds for support. Effects were less dominant partners, though they came into the mix in a satisfying manner when necessary. Usually the movie went with general environmental material, but the smattering of action-oriented sequences added punch to the proceedings. Those featured smooth, accurate surround support as well.

Audio quality was more than satisfactory. Speech came across as natural and concise, while effects displayed good power and clarity. Those elements featured clean highs and tight lows. Music also displayed nice range and definition. The score was always vibrant and vivid. This wasn’t an exceptional soundtrack, but it complemented the material well.

Heading to the extras, DVD One includes only some Previews. It opens with ads for The Pursuit of Happyness, the remake of All the King’s Men and Click. These appear in the “Previews” domain along with promos for Casino Royale, The Holiday, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, Curse of the Golden Flower, Gridiron Gang, Open Season, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Seinfeld Season 7, and upcoming Blu-Ray titles.

Over on DVD Two, we find a slew of featurettes. First Day on the Set with Ron Howard runs a mere two minutes, eight seconds. We visit the director on location at the Louvre on July 6, 2005. He offers some general notes about the flick but doesn’t tell us much in this brief clip. I’m not sure what purpose it serves, as the snippets could have been better presented as part of a longer documentary.

Comments from the author appear in A Discussion with Dan Brown. The four-minute and 47-second clip presents the author/executive producer as he chats about his career as a writer as well as specifics of how he created Code. In addition, he lets us know his impressions of the book’s success and what he plans to write next. A few good nuggets pop up here, but details remain infrequent. That’s too bad, as Brown is an interesting subject; I’d have liked a more time with him and greater depth.

Some character notes appear in the next two programs. A Portrait of Langdon runs seven minutes, 13 seconds, while Who Is Sophie Neveu? goes for six minutes, 53 seconds. Across both, we get movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and comments. We hear from Brown, Howard, producers Brian Grazer and John Calley, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, casting director Jane Jenkins, and actors Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.

“Langdon” looks at character issues, casting, and Hanks’ talents. “Sophie” takes on similar subjects as it addresses the part, how Tautou got the role, and her performance. Both include decent basics but little more. They tend to lather on praise for those involved at the expense of many valuable notes. They’re acceptable shows and that’s about it, though “Sophie” proves notably more interesting than “Langdon”.

Unusual Suspects lasts 17 minutes, 52 seconds, and includes notes from Howard, Jenkins, Brown, Hanks, Goldsman, Grazer, and actors Jean Reno, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Jean-Yves Berteloot, and Jurgen Prochnow. It examines the supporting characters. “Suspects” follows the model of the prior two featurettes as it deals with casting for Fache, Teabing, Silas, Aringarosa, Sauniere, Remy, and Vernet. We also learn about their performances, aspects of the roles, “Suspects” doesn’t dig into its issues with much more depth than its predecessors but the variety makes it more interesting. It creates a pretty good examination of the actors and characters to let us know a fair amount about them.

For a look at locations, we get the 15-minute and 52-second Magical Places. It features Howard, Grazer, Brown, Hanks, director of photography Salvatore Totino, executive producer/2nd unit director Todd Hallowell, and production designer Allan Cameron. We check out shooting in Paris and the Louvre, England, Scotland and Malta. Not all locations get treated equally, of course, but we get a good overview here. “Places” scoots through the various spots well and throws out nice details along the way. It’s a fun way to see the spots used to film Code.

An examination of Da Vinci’s art arrives via the six-minute and 32-second Close-Up on Mona Lisa. It features Brown, Howard, Hanks, McKellen, Cameron, Grazer, Reno, Molina, Tautou, and head scenic artist James Gemmill. The participants reveal their personal impressions of the Mona Lisa as well as a few facts about the painting. The latter point takes up little time, as we mostly get the filmmakers’ thoughts about the Mona Lisa. This makes the program interesting but not very substantial.

The two-part Filmmaker’s Journey documentary takes a total of 36 minutes and 46 seconds. It presents Howard, Hanks, Brown, Grazer, Goldsman, Reno, Marielle, Totino, Tautou, Bettany, McKellen, Hallowell, Molina, costume designer Daniel Orlandi and makeup/hair designer Frances Hannon. “Journey” gives us some notes about Howard’s involvement in the project and then gets into the screenplay and changes from the novel. We learn more about aspects of the characters like hair, makeup and costumes as well as the execution of various scenes, practical effects like a fake corpse, French language scenes, sets and cinematography, challenges telling the story, Howard’s directing methods, and the story’s appeal.

“Journey” takes us through the information via the path the elements appear in the movie, a technique that I like. That means we start with information about Langdon’s introduction and move from there. Not only does this method succeed, but also we get quite a few good notes. Since the earlier programs dealt with nuts and bolts like casting and locations, “Journey” can act more like a production diary. It does so well as it both informs and entertains.

Movie introspection comes in the five-minute and 27-second The Codes of The Da Vinci Code. It presents comments from Howard and Brown but mostly shows film clips as it reveals hidden messages in the film. It doesn’t give us all of them, but it represents a fun look at some info that lies under the surface.

Finally, The Music of The Da Vinci Code lasts two minutes, 55 seconds. It offers remarks from Howard and composer Hans Zimmer. We get some basic notes about the film’s score. “Music” is too brief to give us much detail, so don’t expect more than general info here.

The film version of The Da Vinci Code takes a hugely successful novel and neuters it for the big screen. Director Ron Howard consistently plays it safe here, a tactic that robs the story of any drama or passion. The fullscreen transfer found here looked mediocre at best, but the DVD featured a good soundtrack plus a nice array of featurettes. I wouldn’t recommend this dull movie in any incarnation, but if you want to check out the flick, go for the widescreen edition.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3125 Stars Number of Votes: 48
65:
214:
6 3:
122:
31:
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