Brown study

May 18, 2006

Of all the controversies that are brewing around The Da Vinci Code, the only one that matters to me is whether or not my partner will drag me to see it.

He’s waffling on the subject. He thinks its ridiculous for anyone to get this worked up over a movie, and he’s appalled by amount of media (free advertising) coverage it’s received. Like me, he’s also disinclined to ever see a Tom Hanks movie again, still feeling the sting of Forrest Gump. (I’m glad they cut the scene where a falling chunk of Skylab killed Forest’s dog.)

But he’s a sucker for big, dumb summer movies, and he’s tempted by the notion that every dollar it makes will irritate an overwrought fundamentalist somewhere out in the heartland. The only lure for me is the participation of Sir Ian McKellen, and while that’s not easily dismissed, Tom Hanks’s hair does a lot to balance it out.

I’m hoping I can hold him off by suggesting that we should save it for a hot afternoon during vacation and that he’ll forget by the time we’re there. He’s impervious to bad reviews, rightly noting that you can always find a contrary opinion and that sometimes the worst-reviewed movies can be awfully entertaining.

But could it be as entertaining as A.O. Scott’s review in The New York Times? I doubt it. Scott takes the opportunity not only to unload on the film but on the book that spawned it. The review is chockfull of great lines:

“In spite of some talk (a good deal less than in the book) about the divine feminine, chalices and blades, and the spiritual power of sexual connection, not even a glimmer of eroticism flickers between the two stars. Perhaps it’s just as well. When a cryptographer and a symbologist get together, it usually ends in tears.”

I should confess that I kind of enjoyed the book in a “beats thinking” kind of way. (I think I was at a beach at the time, and it’s been medically proven that reading standards lower when you’re near a large body of water.) I’ve certainly read worse quasi-scholarly thrillers.

But then author Dan Brown or someone decided that popularity was equivalent to importance or consequence, and it’s beach trash, no matter how many people call it blasphemous. That’s irritating to me in the same way that it’s irritating when someone calls Identity Crisis “important” or “mature.”

An acquaintance who teaches religion was delighted with the whole contretemps, not because people were engaging in debate on topics important to her, but because it gave her more opportunities on the lecture circuit. (More power to her, I say.) She’d been riding the Passion of the Christ wave for a while (calling it The Jerusalem Chainsaw Massacre the whole while) and was glad to see that something was coming up next.

So, if nothing else, I guess I can thank Brown, Ron Howard, and company for giving a deeply cynical, criminally underpaid scholar some extra income. Hey, I just looked on the bright side!