Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hicks blitz, then nix, ritzy pix

Hey, I was right back in January! The Da Vinci Code is indeed a terrible movie. The movie has a low, mixed rating of 45 on MetaCritic.com. This is a highly mixed rating. Assorted middle-brow reviewers like Roger Ebert give it a moderate rating of 3 out of 4 stars; but I have long believed that Ebert gives higher ratings to movies that he predicts will be popular.

Even better (as far as my prediction's accuracy), the negative reviews are blaming Akiva Goldsman in large part for the disaster.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker:
The film is directed by Ron Howard and written by Akiva Goldsman, the master wordsmith who brought us "Batman & Robin." I assumed that such an achievement would result in Goldsman’s being legally banned from any of the verbal professions, but, no, here he is yet again.
Peter Travers in Rolling Stone:
How to apportion that blame for the movie's inertia? Start with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (an inexplicable Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind), who manages to eradicate every ounce of suspense, spirituality and erotic fire from Brown's novel. Point the finger at director Ron Howard (also an inexplicable Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind) for playing it so safe that the film feels embalmed. The acting is either hammy (Bettany) or nonexistent (Tautou, so good in Amelie, so charmless here). Even the great Ian McKellen, cast as Holy Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing, is reduced to nonstop bloviating, only alleviated by the occasional hint of mischief in his eyes. Instead of dialogue, Goldsman has written huge globs of exposition. Sir Leigh will yak about the concept of the "sacred feminine." Sophie will say, "I don't follow." And Sir Leigh will pick up the thread with a slide show that reveals a mystery woman visible in Da Vinci's The Last Supper. And Robert will add to the blabfest. And so on and on and on.
Here's the conclusion of Anthony Lane's very testy review:
Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, except at Columbia Pictures, where the power lunches won’t even be half-started. The Catholic Church has nothing to fear from this film. It is not just tripe. It is self-evident, spirit-lowering tripe that could not conceivably cause a single member of the flock to turn aside from the faith. Meanwhile, art historians can sleep easy once more, while fans of the book, which has finally been exposed for the pompous fraud that it is, will be shaken from their trance. In fact, the sole beneficiaries of the entire fiasco will be members of Opus Dei, some of whom practice mortification of the flesh. From now on, such penance will be simple—no lashings, no spiked cuff around the thigh. Just the price of a movie ticket, and two and a half hours of pain.
Ha, I say. You heard me: ha!

While I certainly don't mind a movie that slams Opus Dei — these self-flaggelating ultra-conservatives are collectively as nutty as a fruitcake, even if they do not employ albino priest-assassins — this book was meaningless, pretentious balderdash. It should never have been made into a movie.

True, this movie is making a great deal of money, but hell, people paid good money to go see Godzilla, too. I will predict Da Vinci Code will have an relatively short run, as the huge PR buys and ultra-wide release plans are really what made for a big opening weekend. This movie was simultaneously released in every major country in the world — it took place in just three days. (India came a week later.) That's the widest initial release I have ever heard of.

Big, splashy box office numbers will make headlines; but the actual run won't be sustainable once the word of mouth gets out that the movie stinks. The Da Vinci Code sounds like a long, dull movie. While America always has a bumper crop of movie-goers who can be bullied into seeing a movie with a serious ad blitz, there's ultimately a limit to what people will drop $10-$16 in tickets and refreshments to see. The studios want people to think that they're seeing Passion of the Christ (in both senses), but instead, they get an involved, ridiculous conspiracy about art history and early Christian history.


Blogger Ed Park said...

I thought the book was amateurish to begin with. I hated how the author kept amp'ing the drama to 11 on a dial that only goes to 10 on every chapter. Every chapter had to end with an unbearable crescendo and be a cliffhanger so as to guarantee the reader would turn the page. Breathless drama queen: slow down.
Anyways, I think the warning sign for me that this movie was going to be crap was all the marketing propaganda.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Anonymous travis said...

Absolutely. Huge PR buys are frequently a good sign of a bad movie.

One really excellent sign of a bad movie is when you see big stars on all the TV shows, especially the morning shows. Obviously, the stars are contractually required to promote their movies -- witness Hugh Grant appearing on the Tonight Show just a few days after his famous blowjob -- but it appear that the studios don't push the expensive talent out in the morning unless they are desperate.

In fact, it wouldn't be so surprising if the major talent had those details in the contract: "I'll promote the movie, but if you want me to wake up at 5 fucking AM and be perky about this stinkbomb, it will really cost you." I know I would insist on that in my contract.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Blogger Connie said...

Right you are, Special Ed. As a book, I thought Da Vinci Code was the equivalent of B-grade television. Not too hard to read/watch, but not mind-blowing either. The '24'-like antics, though, were indeed tiresome. I only got through 8 hours of the first season of '24'. The constant state of suspense really started to bore me. At least Da Vinci Code was a shorter read than 24 hours' worth of DVD's. I really never understood why it was such a popular book. I'd prefer to wait to watch it on DVD, and only so that I can participate in the dialogue surrounding it -- not because I'm actually dying to see it.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  

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