Friday, May 26, 2006

Fr. Wauck has a great review of DV Code at Beliefnet

Here's the intro to the review...


By Father John Wauck

What’s it like for someone who’s been a member of Opus Dei for more than 20 years to watch "The Da Vinci Code"? It turns out to be a fairly amusing experience. By way of example, try to imagine a British intelligence officer watching a James Bond movie: yes, England exists, and, yes, spies exist, but apart from that, it’s all pretty much hooey. The caricature presented is so unrecognizable, so far off the mark, that you can’t really feel outrage, because you don’t even feel like a target.

Unfortunately, the "Da Vinci Code’s" silliness is not nearly as light and entertaining as James Bond’s, but now that the critics seem to have exhausted all the different ways of saying the film is lousy, it’s probably useless to point out its flaws yet again (stale, humorless, boring, long, unimaginative, over-stuffed… it’s all that and more). So I’ll move on to the more interesting question: What exactly went wrong? After all, the book, for all its faults, managed to be fun in a stupid comic-book way. At some level, it hit a chord; it worked. The movie does not.

Perhaps it was a mistake to treat the novel as a thriller. As a thriller, it was only mediocre. As a loopy cocktail of pseudo-culture, however, it was a tour-de-force. That is why the greatest measurable impact of "The Da Vinci Code" has been not on religious practice (more or less unchanged), but rather on tourism (record numbers at sites in Paris, London, and Rome). It is this cultural cocktail--not the thrills, not the supposed “blasphemy”--that is the source of the novel’s allure and runaway sales.

Ultimately, it looks as though director Ron Howard erred in trying to make a serious movie out of a fundamentally unserious book. There isn’t a single laugh or thrill in the whole film. Earnest fidelity seems to have been Howard’s goal. Of course, it would have been impossible to cram all the mistakes and absurdities of the novel into even a five-hour film, but in the mere two-and-a-half hours at his disposal, Howard does his solemn best. It’s all there: Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the Gnostic “gospels,” Constantine and the Council of Nicea, medieval witches, the Templars, the Priory of Sion, Clement V, the Crusades, Opus Dei, etc.

"The Da Vinci Code" is so cluttered with historical, symbological, and theological pseudo-facts that it seems hard to imagine any viewer, even one who manages not to doze off, walking out of the theater with a coherent recollection of what exactly has been said--which is probably a blessing. In the long run, this kind of feeble, fictional “attack” will probably end up doing far more good than harm to Christianity, Catholicism, and Opus Dei.


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