Picks and Pans Review: The Da Vinci Code

updated 05/29/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany



Seeking to downplay any rumpus over the religious content of The Da Vinci Code, star Hanks recently told an interviewer that the movie is "loaded with all sorts of hooey." He called that one right.

At times confusing and never compelling, this relatively faithful film adaptation of author Dan Brown's megaselling 2003 novel mostly makes you want to see Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings in person. Code, directed by Ron Howard (Cinderella Man), begins with a murder in Paris's Louvre art museum. Robert Langdon (Hanks), a visiting American academic, is falsely suspected. His quest to find the real killer involves deciphering clues in (and behind) various Da Vinci masterpieces, flitting among famous monuments and churches in Paris, London and beyond and eventually uncovering a big religious secret that powerful forces don't want known.

Code is just this side of being an overstuffed turkey. There's so much plot to be covered and explaining of the finer points of supposed religious history that character development and humor drop by the wayside. The film is a long (149 minutes), jumbled rush to an ending that (1) can be seen a mile away and (2) is a howler. Hanks, sporting flowing locks that would do Oscar Wilde proud, mostly must figure things out at the right moment to keep the story moving. McKellen, as an eccentric scholar, has fun chewing scenery, and his scenes with Hanks are Code's liveliest. Bettany, as a murderous monk, simply looks pained (apt, given his bent for self-flagellation), while Tautou, playing a cop aiding Langdon, is strictly decorative. (PG-13) [1.5 stars]

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