Who knew blasphemy could be so dull?

So I.M. Pei was a Templar?Even though I was warned against it on this very weblog, I still went to see The DaVinci Code Wednesday night. Whoo! Somebody light a match! I didn’t expect it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be the cinematic equivalent of lying under the chair of a guy who’s delivering a two-and-a-half-hour-long, post-three-bean-and-cheese-burrito fart.

They should’ve… no, wait. That would be going too far. But then again, it was bad enough that I think it’s warranted: they should’ve called it The DaStinky Code. Yeah, I said it.

Roger Ebert’s review says “The movie works; it’s involving, intriguing and constantly seems on the edge of startling revelations.” Which is more confounding than anything presented in the movie — how can he say the movie “works” when it’s always on the edge of being interesting, but never crossing over?

I’ll concede that there are elements that, if given more work, could be used to make either a predictable but passable thriller, or a pretty interesting History Channel documentary. Knights Templar are always good, and everybody loves a good multi-national secret organization. I’ll even admit that a deranged, fanatical albino monk, if he weren’t portrayed as a completely impotent moron, might make a good secondary villain.

But it’s like this movie didn’t even try to make a good story. I’m giving Ron Howard the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was trying too hard to be faithful to a dumb book. Because the problems with the movie are so obvious I can’t imagine why nobody did anything to fix them. The movie is:

Pandering. You’re never given one second to figure anything out on your own; some character always rushes in to explain exactly what you just saw. When a character isn’t available, helpful CGI effects point the way — it’s a triangle, that looks like a womb… GET IT?

Muddled. It’s never clear who planted what clues and when. As Mac asked when we were leaving, “So wait… I.M. Pei was a Templar?” For all the exposition we subjected to, we’re still never given even a rudimentary timeline — who was supposed to be writing these riddles? Why would a French guy, leaving clues for his French granddaughter, use English riddles and “APPLE” instead of “POMME?”

Stone dull. About nine hours into Ian McKellan’s Flash presentation on The Last Supper (the one he keeps ready down in the basement in case any wanted criminals show up with questions), crazy albino monk jumps out of nowhere and attacks him. Ostensibly, this was to stop our heroes from uncovering the secret, but I say he was just thinking, “For the love of Christ will you stop with the exposition already!”

Stupid. As pandering and dull and exposition-heavy as the movie is, there are still plenty of places where they figured the audiences would still be too dense to be able to follow along, so they had to dumb it down for us. Again, as Mac pointed out: Tom Hanks’ character is introduced as a Professor of “symbology,” because apparently Harvard University isn’t familiar with the term “semiotics.”

Implausible. Which would be okay if it were exciting. National Treasure, the Bruckheimer “let’s be secular so as not to piss anyone off” attempt to capitalize on the craze around The DaVinci Code book, was a really stupid movie. But it at least was a decent action/thriller, so you suspend disbelief and let things slide so they can tell their story. And still its clues and plot points were better and made more dramatic sense than The DaVinci Code‘s.

For starters, we’re supposed to believe that an old man who’s just been shot in the gut is able to go around leaving a series of complicated clues for his estranged granddaughter? No. And even if I were feeling charitable and were willing to give the movie that one so it can get things going, it’s still a movie. Show him, gut shot bleeding profusely, staggering around the Louvre, thinking up anagrams, writing them on priceless paintings, hiding keys, then stripping naked, writing more needlessly cryptic anagrams and numeric sequences on the floor in his own blood, then lying down and drawing a pentagram on himself. Preferably, to the tune of “Yakety Sax.” Show, don’t tell. Or, in the case of this movie, show, don’t smell. Yeah, I said it again.

Insulting. One of those anagrams, if I’m remembering it right, was for “LEONARDO DAVINCI THE MONA LISA.” Which is good, because people standing in the Louvre aren’t going to pick up on your clue if you just said “Mona Lisa.” (All the promotional stuff around the book has pictures of the Mona Lisa, which always implied to me some ancient mystery revealed in the painting — nope, turns out it’s a message written, in English, on the painting). But maybe grandpa knew he had to be explicit, on account of Sophie’s learning disability. For a story whose central conceit is the idea of evil men in the Catholic Church concealing a secret for millennia in order to preserve their oppressive patriarchy, you’d think the one woman in the story wouldn’t be such a simpleton. She spends the entire movie having things explained to her. Supposedly trained from the age of four to solve riddles and puzzles, she can’t figure out any of the basics, even at gunpoint.

I’d said earlier that I was doomed to see the movie no matter what, just to see what all the fuss was about. So I guess at least I can say that’s over. I just read an excerpt from the book online, and it looks like the movie was pretty much a line-for-line reverse-novelization. So at least I only wasted two and a half hours on it, instead of however long it would’ve taken me to read the book.

It has shaken my faith, though. The book has sold over 60 million copies and has plenty of people who still defend it. How could a loving God let this happen?