Guest Commentary: The Duh Vinci Code

By Christine Guthrie

I don’t go to movies that often. I don’t like to spend all that money on tickets and babysitters, only to be disappointed by the mediocrity that often comes out of Hollywood these days.

So how do I decide which movies I will spend my time and money on? One way is to read the reviews. Of course, even if most critics praise a film, it may still not be worth seeing. I have learned some of the code phrases reviewers use that tip me off to the true character of a film. If they say it’s an “important film,” chances are it’s boring, depressing, preachy, or some combination thereof. If the film is one everyone “should see,” it’s really preachy.

I am also suspicious any time a reviewer uses the word “rollicking.” This often means that the film’s premise is just too absurd and the action is too over the top for me to suspend disbelief. If I am at all interested in seeing such a movie, I’ll wait until I can rent it for a buck.

It seems that most reviewers like almost everything. And if a film takes shots at Western culture or traditional religion, especially the Catholic Church, that gives it bonus points. That’s why I am surprised by the critical reaction to The Da Vinci Code. It has all the elements. Based on the best selling novel, it’s full of conspiracy, action, and it takes direct aim at the Catholic Church. According to the director, Ron Howard, it is supposed to be, “a rollicking good bit of entertainment.” (There’s that word.) And it’s got Tom Hanks, too. What’s not to like?

But due to an apparent attack of honesty, most reviews do not include any of the code words I usually expect. Instead of “important,” they are calling it “plodding,” “boring,” and “overly long.” I haven’t found one review that called it “rollicking,” and as far as I know, no one is telling me that this is a movie I “should see.” The reviews are so bad, one might suspect there is some sort of conspiracy.

Nonetheless, Stan and I saw it–he for professional reasons, I because a date night is still a date night, even if it’s a bad movie. So were the reviewers right? Well, I wouldn’t exactly say it was boring, but I do have a long attention span. A couple times I thought the movie was about to end, only to be disappointed. If the projector had broken and the last few scenes had been lost, I’m not sure most people would have noticed. Howard threw in a couple of chase scenes that did little to spice things up.

Tom Hanks is taking almost as much of a beating over this movie as the Catholic Church. Hanks looked as if he was wincing through much of it. Of course, maybe that was because he had second thoughts, or perhaps he just got a glimpse of his hair in a mirror. I’m afraid that after reading his reviews Hanks may be driven to self-flagellation.

The irony in all this is that despite the bad reviews, people will see this movie because Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have a well deserved following. They have made their money by turning out quality, often family-friendly, films. Now this.

The movie reminded me of National Treasure, only less fun. If you yearn to see a movie with conspiracies, chases, plot twists, and the like, rent North by Northwest, although you will be disappointed if you want to see an albino villain.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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