Director Ron Howard, who earlier worked with Hanks on the far superior "Apollo 13," never gets a strong handle on the material here. The tone is oh-so-serious – McKellan is the only performer who seems to have fun with his role – so viewers are forced to swallow the film’s story hook, line, and sinker. It lumbers along without generating any genuine tension. The performances are uninspired.

Still, "The Code" is, if not exactly good, at least watchable during its first hour. A climactic sequence not too long thereafter seems to bring the film to a conclusion, but there’s still more to come. Much more. Unfortunately, there’s no momentum, no sense of grand revelation. The film simply breaks down. The long stretches of dialogue are punishing, the pacing leaden, the visuals dark and uninviting. The story absurdly tries to wrap a faith-affirming ribbon around its church-bashing package.

Will Hanks’ star-power once again be diminished by a high-profile literary adaptation that fails to please? That’s doubtful: Hanks has proven over and over that he’s a bankable star. Howard, likewise, has had more hits ("A Beautiful Mind", "Parenthood") than misses ("The Missing"), and will continue to receive top-notch projects. Taotou’s English could use some work, but her international appeal ("Amelie", "A Very Long Engagement") won’t soon fade.

No, the only people who lose with "The Da Vinci Code" are its viewers. Your two-and-a-half hours would be better spent reading Witherington’s "The Gospel Code" than watching Howard’s film.

AUDIENCE: Older teens and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Brief references.
  • Language/Profanity:  Several profanities, some said in French; Lord’s name taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  A monk’s bare backside is shown; the camera lingers on a naked corpse with a symbol on his chest; an explicit sex ritual is briefly shown
  • Violence:  The film begins with a grisly murder at an art museum; the principal characters are under constant threat of being killed; people are shot, bloodied, bruised; a monk flagellates himself; a nun is bludgeoned to death; reckless driving.
  • Faith:  The film is a vicious distortion of Christianity, demeaning the very idea of the divinity of Christ; His miracles are scoffed at, as is His resurrection; the church is alleged to be responsible for the biggest conspiracy in history; Langdon’s view of faith leaves much to be desired.