starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno
screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on the novel by Dan Brown
directed by Ron Howard
by Walter Chaw The greatest threat that Dan Brown's novel, and now Ron Howard's film of the same, poses to spirituality is the same threat that any bad art presents the human soul. The Da Vinci Code is a retarded attempt to summarize painstaking scholarship and liturgy into broadly digestible gruel. In the eyes of many, it's what the Christian Bible is to centuries of pagan mythology and millennia of cultural anthropology: the greatest stories ever told, retold in a form that illiterates and the gullible can appreciate. It's nothing more and nothing less than The Celestine Prophecy (itself adapted for the silver screen this annus mirabilus) for fallen Catholics and armchair intellectuals: books so poorly-written, so bereft of poetry and grace, that they cannot offend (or repel) the unschooled and the indiscriminate with their oblique-ness, each about poetry and grace so brusquely raped and "decoded" that the "conspiracy"--the great mystery of great art--is laid bare as bad thriller material. It's skipping forward to read the last page of the book--and the wrong book at that. Is it really ironic that Ron Howard, who has never directed a graceful scene, has never had a film with a hint of a whiff or subtext (his version of "genius at work" is a holodeck (see: A Beautiful Mind and now The Da Vinci Code)) is the chosen one for the adaptation (along with partner in extreme, middlebrow-pleasing mendacity Akiva Goldsman) of an obscenely popular book (60-million copies sold and counting) that makes anyone with a half a brain crazy with grief for the plight of the sublime in our culture?