Tom Hanks’ Hair: But Is it Art?

I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code. Nor do I have any desire to add it to my already bloated reading list.
That said, I find the hype surrounding the film version of Dan Brown’s wildly popular book curious, if not altogether ludicrous.

Based on the rabid, across-the-board coverage of the past week — Matt Lauer on a Da Vinci Code tour of Europe, magazine covers, NPR segments and, of course, the Catholic Church’s call for a boycott — you’d think director Ron Howard’s big-screen adaptation was more important than, say, those missing WMDs and soaring gas prices.

Not since Mel Gibson’s overheated The Passion of the Christ has a movie touched such a pre-release nerve. I don’t think I have to point out the common denominator.

Our local art house, Esquire Theater, has jumped on the bandwagon, devoting four of its six screens to The Da Vinci Code. The other two screens feature Poseidon, a mega-budget disaster flick, and Thank You for Smoking, an effective satire that has played in some multiplexes across the country. That’s an art-house theater?

Elsewhere, the film’s studio, Sony Pictures, is opening the film wide, and not just in this country: They sent 393 prints to China, of all places, which likely makes The Da Vinci Code one of largest openings in movie history.

Yes, it’s a big deal. Or is it?

I attended a press screening May 17, which might make me one of the first non-studio people on the planet to view it — thus the wand-frisk and confiscation of my picture-taking cell phone.

Given that I was totally foreign to the book’s premise and that I’m woefully ill-informed on matters of religious history, I found the film a fairly effective — if conventional — thriller. Yes, I can see how readers could get swept up in its conspiracy-laced, history-jumping narrative, which is most assuredly an even richer experience in book form.

But I suspect readers will be disappointed with Howard’s version of The Da Vinci Code. Early critical response has been tepid to terrible. The movie’s strongest aspect — its suspense plot — will be no surprise to those in the know, leaving Tom Hanks’ widely-pondered hair choice as the film’s most curious feature.

As for the controversy over the content of Brown’s fictional story, if the Vatican can’t survive this tame piece of pop-culture entertainment, they’re in big trouble.

Or, as a friend put it after the screening, “If my faith can’t withstand this film, then it wasn’t very strong to begin with.”

— Jason Gargano

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One Comment on “Tom Hanks’ Hair: But Is it Art?”

  1. Natashia Says:

    The Da Vinci Code dredges up the age old question of the worth of women in the church (or in religion in general — the Dalai Lama is, as we speak, rooting for full ordination of nuns in Buddhism). Is the Catholic Church boycotting (oh boy, not again) to deny Mary Magdeline (i.e., women) her place in Christ’s realm?


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