Monday, 24 November 2014

BRIT PICK: The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

0

The Inbetweeners 2 (UK, 2014)
Directed by Damon Beesley & Iain Morris
Starring Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas

I've spoken on many occasions about how screenwriters or novelists don't always make the best directors. As much as we bemoan a director's vision for a given film not gelling with that of the writer, when writers get behind a camera they often fail to grasp the difference between cinematic and literary storytelling. This is true of the cult classic Westworld, the would-be cult classic Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and the coming-of-age drama The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
 
The Inbetweeners 2 sees Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, the creators of the TV series, stepping behind the camera for a film which bids farewell to the famous foursome. Just as the first film was an exception to the rule that all films based on British comedies are terrible, so this film is an exception to the rule that writers can't direct. While some of the comedy still doesn't belong, it is both an improvement on the first film and a fitting way to say goodbye.
 
The first big success of The Inbetweeners 2 is that it actually looks and feels like a film. This may seem an obvious point, but it's one that you can very rarely say about British comedy adaptations, both in the past and in recent times. While the production values of The Inbetweeners Movie were pretty decent, it still looked and felt like an extended TV episode. This is all-round more cinematic, with better compositions, a wider choice of angles and a glossier feel.
 
The explanation for this is not straightforward. Had Beesley and Morris jettisonned all the old crew upon taking the helm, it would be easy to put this transition down solely to their creative talents. But the film is shot by the same person as before (Ben Wheeler), edited by the same person (William Webb) and produced by the same person (Christopher Young, for Film4). Most if not all of the production team have done the bulk of their work in television rather than feature films.
 
The true explanation lies in a combination of creative freedom and an understanding of direction in terms of purpose. Directing a film is not just about making sure that all the constituent parts fit together in a workable order: it is about communicating a story, theme or idea with a clear and preferably unique voice. Not only do Beesley and Morris have more freedom following the success of the first film, but they have a clear idea of where they want to go, regardless of audience expectations.
 
The second big plus of The Inbetweeners 2 is that it adds depth and humanity to the characters. This is also one of the characteristics which make it feel more cinematic: we actually see the characters grow in a meaningful way (well, meaningful enough) over a long period of time. This is something that can be done on both film and TV but in different ways; while TV episodes can space out and break up character development, on film it has to be much more seamless, as it is here.
 
The difference between this film and its predecessor is a dominance of character over situation. The Inbetweeners Movie was essentially a genre exercise: it dropped these characters into overly familiar surroundings and sat back to see what would happen. This film may share some familiar characteristics of episodes, particularly in the Splash Mountain scenes, but this time the characters drive any given situation and the progression from one to the next feels a lot more natural.
 
Most of the boys have an emotional arc which we can follow through the film and which makes them more rounded and believable. Will's relationship with Katie sees him disown his friends, only to realise the emptiness of both his prep-school friendship with her and the lifestyle that she and Ben have chosen to inhabit. His tirades around the camp fires are right on the money, puncturing both the pretentiousness of spiritual tourism and the egos of the people who take part in it.
 
Simon's relationshipwith Lucy (who has become a complete yandere) sees him finally stick up for himself when it comes to relationships; even if it's resolved in a rather convenient manner, he at least goes through the process of deciding who he values and why. Jay, arguably the least likeable character at face value, is developed the most when we discover his capacity for both remorse and genuine love. His insecurity and regret regarding Jane is very welcome and is prevents the film from repeating itself. The only one short-changed in this department is Neil; while arguably he's already happier than all the other boys, he's ultimately reduced to out-of-context comic relief.
 
The third big plus of The Inbetweeners 2 is that it is funnier than its predecessor. It's still every bit a gross-out comedy which treads the fine line between edgy and offensive, but there's much less of a reliance on set-pieces, and what set-pieces there are are much more memorable. With the log flume incident, it's as though Beesley and Morris saw Caddyshack, got to the infamous pool scene, and thought: "how can we make this even funnier?".
 
Many of the funniest moments in the film will simultaneously make you howl with laughter and grimace in disgust. The scene involving Neil in the pub with the dog may feature unconvincing prostethics, but for the brief glance we get (which is all we'll ever need), it does its job. The same goes for Will's falsetto singging around the camp fire, the aforementioned log flume incident, and Simon getting urinated on by Neil in the Outback.
 
While these scenes are funny, some of the more sexual jokes are completely unnecessary. The scene where Simon is accused of being a paedophile is really uncomfortable; it's not attempting to say anything clever or expose any kind of absurd attitude, it's just plain gruesome and should have been cut. The same goes for the various mentions of rape which pop up over the running time. While the film holds back from out-and-out using sexual violence as a punchline, it seems content to use the word as a cheap laugh when it should be anything but.
There are other moments of the film which on deeper reflection don't make a lot of sense. The scene with the four boys holding hands in the Outback as they die of thirst is very touching, being somewhere between the existential loneliness of Walkabout and the incinerator sequence in Toy Story 3. But then you notice that the boys are avoiding their only source of shade, and leaning against a car which is roasting hot. It doesn't throw the film completely off-balance, but it's a niggle that lingers aftwards. 
 
The Inbetweeners 2 is an improvement on its predecessor which merits its existence as a means of deepening the characters. Beesley and Morris both write and direct well, with better jokes (by and large) and a greater focus on the characters rather than the situations in which they find themselves. Just like its predecessor, it's not without its problems, but if this is the last we see of Simon, Will, Neil and Jay, then it's a fitting way to finish. 

Photobucket

NEXT REVIEW: Step Up 4: Miami Heat (2012)

Thursday, 20 November 2014

BRIT PICK: The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

0

The Inbetweeners Movie (UK, 2011)
Directed by Ben Palmer
Starring Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas

Whenever a beloved TV series makes it to the big screen, it's a reasonable assumption that the plot will involve the characters going on holiday. This has become the default model for British comedy adaptations, whose characters have outgrown the environments which originally made them famous. The results are almost universally dire, with tired fish-out-of-water gags, rehashing of old routines and much-loved character traits being altered to appease an international audience.
 
After three successful series on Channel 4 and a smattering of awards, The Inbetweeners now takes its place in the British-comedy-goes-on-holiday pantheon. But while it retreads many of the done-to-death beats of this tired little sub-genre, The Inbetweeners Movie comes off a lot better than most. It's not an unmitigated success by anyone's standards, but it will raise quite a few laughs.
 
To pass muster, a film adaptation of a TV series must pull off two different tricks. Firstly, it must transition from televisual storytelling to something more cinematic, giving us a storyline and situations which aren't bound by the episodic rubric of the small screen. And secondly, it must provide a smooth transition from the ending of the TV series to this new scenario. This applies regardless of whether the film is intended as a direct sequel to a given series, or as a retelling of the same material in a different way, as David Lynch attempted with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
 
In the first instance, The Inbetweeners Movie achieves a partial pass. The plot is structured very much like the trip-themed episodes, having a very similar opening act to 'Thorpe Park' or 'Caravan Club' from the first series. It's not hard to imagine that the party montages are what would have resulted had the series enjoyed a slightly bigger budget. Director Ben Palmer also helmed the second and third series, so a certain amount of visual continuity is no surprise.
 
While the film is structured like an episode, however, there is enough material in there to see us through the running time. The film doesn't fall into the trap of many adaptations from TV or the stage, namely needlessly increasing the number of locations to give the feeling of a bigger world for the characters. While there are more locations, they are used sparingly and the jokes that take place in them more often than not hit their mark.
 
As a transition from the TV series (the second trick I mentioned), The Inbetweeners Movie again partially succeeds. Many of the characteristics of the TV series are retained: school scenes are kept to a minimum, much of the plot revolves around alcohol and women, and a lot of it is in pretty bad taste. But Palmer and the writers do make enough accomodations to make the characters feel like film characters. Simon's relationship with Carly is given the space it needs to play out, while in the series it was often relegated to a sub-plot.
 
Despite the series being very much a 21st-century product, The Inbetweeners Movie has a curiously 1990s vibe to it. Some of the clubbing scenes are shot and structured like several similar scenes from Kevin and Perry Go Large, the spin-off from Harry Enfield & Chums featuring Enfield and Kathy Burke. Both films share a welcome sense of irony, never falling into the trap of celebrating the more troubling, chauvinistic aspects of lad culture.
  
When I reviewed National Lampoon's Animal House, I said that it was very difficult to review any kind of gross-out comedy without simply listing all its jokes and telling people that it was funny. The Inbetweeners Movie has no shame in playing to the American Pie crowd, with jokes about vomit, faeces and genitals a-plenty. Sometimes the jokes are so telegraphed that they're simply too obvious to be funny - the nasty item in the bidet being the best example. But these are the exception rather than the rule, and Palmer edits the film to leave many of the best jokes to our imagination.
 
Unlike Animal House, however, there is no real subtext to The Inbetweeners Movie which you could draw out to justify it to those who find its humour puerile and adolescent. While John Landis' film could be viewed as some kind of counter-cultural statement, with one foot in the Kennedy era and the other in the late-1970s, Palmer's is content to be about four boys getting into scrapes. But not every good comedy needs subtext, and Animal House's political points do not excuse some of its more misjudged moments.
Part of the reason that The Inbetweeners Movie works as well as it does is that it is always making the effort to distance itself from the tone or tropes that its surroundings would naturally afford. The show has always gone the extra mile to use its characters' capacity to offend in order to send up people who are like that in real life. There is no scene in the film which glamourises Jay's atrocious attitude to women, and for all the heavy drinking the boys' world is hardly an unmitigated paradise.
This realisation allows the humour of the film to raise above most of its overly conventional features. We still get the stereotypical scenes of young men getting drunk and failing miserably with the ladies, but Neil's dancing puts a nice little twist on things. The nudity is predictable but tasteful towards both the male and female characters; while the women don't have much to do plot-wise, they are not as purely objectified as they would be in a Michael Bay film. A good chunk of the humour is character-driven, with Will's awkwardness about the girl the fancies producing a lot of well-handled confusion.
 
That being said, there are aspects of the film which fall short, and as with Animal House these can be divided into structural issues and taste issues. Structually, the film begins to run out of steam as soon as the boat party happens. While a lot of the character dynamics are resolved, it all feels a little too neat, and then the film fails to provide a satisfying ending - even with the post-credit sequence involving Mr. Gilbert.
 
The taste issues arise when the film risks tipping over from its relatively intelligent vantage point into something more seedy. There's no point being a prude about a film like this, and purely from a gross-out standpoint it does what it says on the tin. But the alpha male character James is over-egged to the point where he becomes creepy, and the scenes with the child at the pool are rather uncomfortable.
 
The Inbetweeners Movie partially succeeds where many British comedy adaptations fail, making it to the big screen reasonably intact and passing the crucial test of making us laugh. Structurally it's still very much an extended TV episode, and there are moments which are either uncomfortable or just unfunny. But the film gives room for the characters to grow enough to retain our interest for an hour-and-a-half. The TV series remains superior, but this is funny enough to justify at least one viewing.

Photobucket

NEXT REVIEW: The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

RIP Warren Clarke

0

Around a week ago it was announced that British actor Warren Clarke had passed away aged 67 following a short illness. Having allowed the news to sink in, and been delayed by my job from responding more immediately, I feel the time is right for me to offer some thoughts.
http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/56425000/jpg/_56425068_jex_1220441_de05-1.jpg
Warren Clarke, like Herbert Lom and Bill Wallis before him, was part of a long line of British character actors, who carved themselves indelibly into the public's imagination through a performance or character which defined their career. For Lom, it was the long-suffering and ultimately insane Dreyfuss in the Pink Panther series; for Wallis, his appearances in Blackadder (but particularly Blackadder Goes Forth); and for Clarke, it was Andy Dalziel in Dalziel and Pascoe, based on the detective stories of Reginald Hill.
 http://images.radiotimes.com/namedimage/Dalziel_and_Pascoe_star_Warren_Clarke_dies_aged_67.jpg?quality=85&mode=crop&width=620&height=374&404=tv&url=/uploads/images/original/61598.jpg
Clarke's performance as the no-nonsense, grumpy and often wayward Dalziel was one of the highlights of my TV landscape for many years. He and Colin Buchanan formed an entertaining and believable partnership which at its best rivalled that between John Thaw and Kevin Whately in Inspector Morse. But Clarke had considerable range which is not recognised as often as perhaps it should be.
http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article4614785.ece/alternates/s615/Warren-Clarke-as-Andy-Dalziel.jpg
While his film career is not as prolific as many of the actors to whom I have paid tribute, Clarke's big-screen debut role in A Clockwork Orange remains inspired. Dim is the perfect foil to Malcolm McDowell's tremendous performance as Alex DeLarge, and Clarke manages to bring reality to both the pity-inducing slow-motion sequence in the river and Dim's sadistic revenge once he has joined the police. The film is always worth revisiting as a work of cinematic brilliance, but it's also a good example of how Stanley Kubrick was more of an actor's director than many people realise.
The rest of Clarke's career plays on both his warmth and his often grotesque physicality. Down to Earth remains an underrated drama-comedy, and his chemistry with Pauline Quirke is very fine indeed. His appearance in Bleak House is every bit as glittering as Gillian Anderson's acclaimed performance as Lady Dedlock. And his brief comedic turn in 'Amy & Amiability' from Blackadder the Third remains one of the highlights of the third series of that sitcom.
http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsC/tve3236-5-43.gif
Any of these are fitting ways to pay tribute to Clarke, but I would especially recommend A Clockwork Orange for anyone who doesn't believe that there was more to him than irascible Northern detectives. I'll be revisiting Kubrick's magnum opus myself in due course on this blog, and now seems a perfect time for you to do the same. RIP.

Daniel

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

DANCE FILM: Step Up 3 (2010)

0

Step Up 3 (USA, 2010)
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring Adam Sevani, Rick Malambri, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner

When the current 3D wave was getting underway, many commentators were arguing for 3D films as a 'unique cinematic experience'. 3D films, it was claimed, would save cinema because they offered audiences something that they could not experience in the comfort of their own homes. The higher ticket prices and often dodgy glasses were excused on the grounds that home entertainment systems could not compete with seeing things come out of the screen in the company of several hundred people.
 
Five years on from the release of Avatar, we've started to see many aspects of this argument come under fire. TV is undercutting the exclusivity of cinema in 3D and in other areas, and audiences increasingly recognise that 'an extra dimension' does not guarantee a special experience. In the case of Step Up 3, released just one year after James Cameron's bloated epic, even the most eye-popping 3D can't disguise the fact that its plot is a complete and utter mess.
 
In my review of the original Step Up, I spoke about how its sequels "increasingly sacrificed narrative for the sake of set-pieces". What began in Step Up 2: The Streets has become magnified here, to the point where it is much less a film as a series of sub-MTV music videos. It's not just the fact that the plot is weaker than the previous offerings, it's that the director seems so completely disinterested in the story and focusses all his attention on the individual set-pieces.
 
To be fair to Jon M. Chu (who also helmed the second film), some of these set-pieces are impressive in their own right. If nothing else is true about these films, they are a genuine showcase for people who wouldn't otherwise be in the Hollywood spotlight. The decline of the all-round star, who could sing and dance as well as act, has meant that the only outlets for talented perfomers like these has been on the stage or coming through the much-mocked Disney system.
 
The very best of these set-pieces comes around two-thirds of the way in, where Moose (played well by Adam Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner) dance through the streets to a remixed version of 'I Won't Dance' by Fred Astaire. Anyone who saw the VW advert which remixed Singing in the Rain will get a kick out of this, and the choreography is both very modern and a throwback to an age where every prop or piece of set would feature in a routine. Chu also deserves credit for using long takes, dispelling any notion that the performances were 'sexed up' in the editing suite.
 
The World Jam scenes are equally enjoyable, though the editing is much slicker to give coverage to as many people as possible. Ken Seng doesn't have a glittering reputation as a cinematographer; his previous credits include Obsessed and Quarantine, and he would go on to shoot the awful Project X. But he does bring a lot of colour and energy to this scene, complimenting Chu's desire to showcase the different dance moves through low angles and wide shots.
 
Taken purely as a showcase for great dancing, Step Up 3 is no better or worse than its predecessor, and dance fans who may be less concerned with narrative may enjoy it on this level. What is disappointing as a film fan is that these performers are given far too little to work with in terms of a story to tie these moments together. While it's unlikely we would have got this far if we weren't even faintly interested in dance, the film still needs to justify or explain the content for those who are less well-versed.
 
While the story of Step Up was as old as the hills, director Anne Fletcher did manage to put an interesting spin on it, using the different forms to dance to make familiar points about class and overcoming adversity. The plot to Step Up 3 is just as well-worn: a group of people risk having the one thing that matters to them be taken away by another group of people who don't understand them. But Chu either can't bring anything interesting to this idea, or he doesn't seem at all bothered.
 
The opening of the film is shot very differently to the rest of it, using camcorder-style footage of people talking about what dance means to them and why they do what they do. It's a promising springboard to a film which, in better hands, could have examined the role of dance in modern society or told a nice little story about rebellion, along the lines of Footloose. Instead, it's used to introduce our characters and then abandoned in favour of more conventional visuals.
 
Each of the different plot points or character details which could turn into a decent story are either underdeveloped or totally ignored. The rivalry between the House of Pirates and the House of Ninjas has potential, but the former feels less like a consciously cohesive whole and more like a bunch of people who are fooling around and only there because the plot demands it. The music is so homogenous that Chu can't use the trick that Robert Wise employed with West Side Story, namely using the music to play up the differences between the Sharks and Jets.
 
Likewise, Moose's dilemma between dancing and electrical engineering isn't taken as far as perhaps it could have been. We get all the standard scenes of him missing classes and wearing out his friendships, but it's far too generic to hold our attention in the long run. That is quite a crime when we consider just how charismatic Moose was in the second film. For all that is wrong with Dead Poets Society, it did a much better job of portraying the conflict between personal will and parental expectations.
 
One by one all the narrative possibilities in Step Up 3 are turned over and brushed aside, punctuated by impressive but interchangeable dance sequences. All we are left with to see us through the 90-odd minutes is the charisma of the actors. Unlike Step Up 2, our lead isn't so one-dimensionally aggressive that we cannot build up empathy, but the rest of the performers are a mixed bag on an acting level.
 
On the good side, Alyson Stoner makes a welcome re-appearance as Camille from the first film. Despite her squeaky-clean appearance, she has a playfulness to her which gives her good chemistry with Sevani and makes their relationship believable. Sharni Vinson is equally capable as Natalie, being far more convincing here than she ever was in Home and Away. On the bad side, Rick Malambri is very much a pretty boy; like many models who have turned to acting, he doesn't have the emotional range needed to cut it at this level.
 
Step Up 3 is a disappointing mess and remains the low point of the Step Up series. Its few moments of visual splendour are ultimately dismissed by a plot and storytelling which are at best carefree and at worst non-existent. For all the charm of the performers, the result is far too empty and shallow to hold the attentions of all but the most devoted fan. Thank goodness that the sequel turned out to be an improvement.

Photobucket

NEXT REVIEW: The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

THRILLER: The Da Vinci Code (2006)

0

The Da Vinci Code (USA, 2006)
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina

Film adaptations of bestselling books are very often rushed, sub-par affairs. When a book becomes a bestseller, being widely advertised and talked about everywhere, the pressure is often on to make the film quickly, before the hype begins to fade and chances of a big opening weekend are dashed. Directors often react to this tight tournaround by slavishly reproducing on screen the words that are on the page, resulting in works like One Day and the first two Harry Potter films which don't use cinematic storytelling effectively to justify their stories outside of their hype.
 
You'd like to think that Ron Howard, one of the most successful and populist directors around, wouldn't fall into this trap. He is, after all, the man who produced a cracking drama in Apollo 13 despite sticking rigidly to the in-flight transcripts of the Apollo crew. Having turned his talents to subjects as varied as mermaids, firemen and mathematics, you wouldn't bet against him being a dab hand at the theological thriller. But whatever the appeal of its source material, The Da Vinci Code is a total clunker.
 
Like so many of its predecessors, any discussion of The Da Vinci Code has to begin with a dismissal of the religious hysteria surrounding it. It's certainly not the first film that's drawn the ire of the Catholic Church, and based upon said church's ridiculous response, it won't be the last. We are dealing with an organisation which stationed nuns outside screenings of The Exorcist in America, sprinkling paying punters with holy water as they went in and giving them support numbers to call on their way out.
 
By calling for a boycott of the film, the Catholic Church (or individuals and elements therein) played completely into the hands of both the filmmakers and the church's critics. Such a gesture, on whatever grounds, serves to paint Christians as thin-skinned sheep, seeking to shut down a debate which they should be having and encouraging. The smart thing that any Christian should have done then, and should do now, is to give the film a fair run, if only so it can prove how ridiculous it is, and then use it to start a dialogue that potentially could open up the Gospel to people for real.
 
The claims of Dan Brown's book have been comprehensively dispelled by numerous authors and documentary filmmakers, with even sections of the church pointing out inconsistences and misappropriations in his work. There is no evidence at all that Jesus had a physical bloodline, or for a physical relationship with Mary Magdalene, or for the existence of a Holy Grail, whether physical or conceptual. But even if any one or more of these were true, to worry obsessively over them is to miss the point, focussing on superficial matters rather than the deeper truth of Christianity.
 
Of course, from a filmmaking point of view, it doesn't matter in the slightest that Brown's ideas are fanciful beyond belief. Many films have used bizarre, apocryphal or just downright silly aspects of religion to tell a gripping story and often illuminate a deeper truth. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has very little basis in historical fact, but it's still a powerful statement about faith and the dangers of placing material gain before spiritual fulfillment. Likewise, The Last Temptation of Christ speculated on Jesus having sexual relationships, but it used this provocative idea to explore temptation, desire and the burden the Messiah faced during his time on Earth.
 
The most illuminating comparison here, however, is with The Ninth Gate, Roman Polanski's preposterous late-1990s thriller about a gateway to demonic power contained in books. While its initial premise was promising and its first ten minutes forbidding, the film quickly descended into a quagmire of plot holes and poor special effects, culminating in a totally botched ending. But while The Ninth Gate sees Polanski showing contempt for both his audience and the material, The Da Vinci Code commits the far lesser sin of well-meaning incompetence.
 
The first and biggest problem with The Da Vinci Code is that it treats its audience like idiots. Every single detail of the plot is spoon-fed to us as if we are incapable of joining the dots ourselves. While there is a lot of terminology to deal with, and therefore some exposition can be justified, having actors do nothing but explain the plot does not make for compelling drama. The screenplay comes from Akiva Goldsman, who did a good job on A Beautiful Mind but also wrote Batman and Robin.
 
A related problem is that the film takes itself far too seriously. Any theological thriller worth its salt has to acknowledge the suspension of disbelief needed to accept its ideas, or at least must offer something on a structural level to keep our attention if we can't. But while Last Crusade could be enjoyed as both a big adventure and a moral insight, The Da Vinci Code demands that you take it seriously and comes out all the more po-faced and boring as a result.
 
Brown did the production no favours in this regard, claiming that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals are accurate." Had the film taken the approach of its stars, positioning itself as a good story containing a lot of nonsense, that would have been much more appealing. Instead, the expository tone and grave delivery of the actors robs us of any thrills and reduces the whole thing down to a drudging lecture.
 
This drudgery is reflected in the visuals. Salvatore Totino is a workable cinematographer: he worked with Howard on The Missing and Cinderella Man prior to this, as well as shooting Any Given Sunday with Oliver Stone. But whatever sharpness and brightness he brought to those productions has been replaced here with dimly light, poorly-composed scenes where the actors and camera barely move. It's no wonder that Mark Kermode's natural response was to scream "turn the light on!" when reviewing the film on BBC Radio 5Live.
 
The one genuinely enjoyable scene in the film comes when Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou drop by the house of a grail expert, played by Ian McKellen. This is the one part of the film where Howard allows his actors to unspool freely and relax into the sillier aspects of the plot. While the arguments being put before us are still complete hokum, it's watchable hokum and it actually feels like the plot is going somewhere. But once that scene is over, it's back to the pompous and ill-informed conspiracies for what feels like another seven years.
 
The performances in The Da Vinci Code are bafflingly below-par. Even if Hanks' terrible haircut can be tolerated, he still spends most of the film stumbling from scene to scene totally confused, like it was his very first film. Tautou has none of the grace or joie de vivre that she showed in Amelie, coming across as annoying and out of her depth. Paul Bettany is wasted in a role that becomes meaningless when played dead straight, and Alfred Molina is largely phoning it in. Only Ian McKellen gets the room he needs to express himself, and we miss him whenever he's not on screen.
 
The Da Vinci Code is a dismal and disappointing thriller that is more insulting for its poor scripting than its theological pretentions. Howard's direction is utterly lacklustre, most of the cast seem puzzled as to why they are there, the script has very little nuance and the whole thing is far too grim and serious. If you want a serious examination of Christian theology, this is definitely not the place to come. The only thing this film can produce is boredom or unintentional hilarity.

Photobucket

NEXT REVIEW: Step Up 3 (2010)