This is it? Seriously? This is what everybody's been carrying around and reading late into the night and talking about all the time? This is the thing that's made me feel like a social leper for the past three years because I was like the only person on the goddamn planet who didn't know what the fuck it was all about? This? No, c'mon—really?
Well, okay—if you say so. Here it is, debuting to no one's surprise and sold-out crowds: The film adaptation of Dan Brown's mega-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. Hanks—along with what might be the goofiest haircut of all time—plays Robert Langdon, Harvard's "Professor of Religious Symbology." Langdon's doing his thing—having an absurd job title, giving monotoned lectures in Paris—when the French police interrupt one of his book signings (the nerve!) to get his help in solving a murder at the Louvre.
It's here—in the film's first 10 minutes—that the bad news hits, and hard: Da Vinci is dumb, dull, and not much fun. Squandering its chance to be a populist bit of summer pulp, Da Vinci instead revels in the exposition of its oft-predictable narrative, most of which is clunkily constructed around a not-quite-interesting Christian conspiracy theory. (In other words, it's Raiders of the Lost Ark: Nerd Edition.) The closest Da Vinci gets to excitement is when Langdon's sidekick, Sophie (played by that annoyingly adorable girl from Amélie), breathlessly exclaims "An anagram!" to which Langdon responds, "An anagram is right!" Yeah, the movie's two and a half hours of that, as intellectually and viscerally engaging as watching that old lady on the bus fill out her crossword.
Ron Howard—as middling of a director as there is—flails about and tries to keep things melodramatic, which mostly means he uses a ton of cheesy CG and blares Hans Zimmer's bombastic score at every opportunity. Whatever exhilarating thing Langdon does (Walking down museum steps! Looking through a magnifying glass! Getting a constipated look on his face in an elevator—he's not just a nerd, he's a claustrophobic nerd!) is accompanied by Zimmer's overwrought choral and string arrangements.
Hanks seems asleep through all this—both bored and boring—but the rest of the cast futilely attempts to imbue Akiva Goldsman's hammy script with life. "Witness the greatest cover-up in human history!" Ian McKellen grandiosely declares—but oh, he's too good for all this, and he knows it. There are more good actors who're wasted: An albino Paul Bettany just glares a lot as a self-flagellating hitman; generic Frenchman-for-hire Jean Reno frogs it up as a Paris cop; Alfred Molina waddles around as a supposedly sinister bishop. But always, the star is Hanks, who gets to deliver choice lines like "I need to get to a library—fast!"
For all of Langdon's drowsy expertise in solving The Da Vinci Code, it seems a far worthier mystery would be figuring out why anyone—let alone everyone—seems so enamored with a story that's so lame.