THE DA VINCI CODE
THE DA VINCI CODE (O, PG-13):
Despite the talented touch of
director Ron Howard (A Beautiful
Mind, Cinderella Man), high production
values and an A-list cast, The
Da Vinci Code fails to dazzle.
The premise of the story is that Jesus
and Mary Magdalene were married and
that she was the Holy Grail because
she bore his child. Their bloodline
continues to this day, and a huge
conspiracy has been perpetrated to
cover this up, first by the apostles
and then by the Church.
In the 12th century, the Priory of
Sion was formed to find the secret of
the Grail. Once found, the Knights
Templar were to protect it.
In the present day, the entire
council of the secret Priory is murdered.
Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred
Molina) of Opus Dei strives to keep
the lid on in an effort to secure the
male domination of the Church. Da
Vinci’s masterpieces provide clues
that reveal the conspiracy and the
identity of the Holy Grail—a secret
worth murdering for—to Professor
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and
Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou).
Many people have read one of the
many books available or seen documentaries
that deconstruct Dan
Brown’s best-selling novel. (I can’t help
but smile at the irony of so many companies
and authors profiting from
debunking the very book they critique.)
The Da Vinci Code (book and film),
denies the tenets of the Nicene Creed,
especially the divinity of Jesus. But this
is not what causes me to give the movie
a thumbs-down. A film is supposed to
tell its story through sight and sound,
not endless dialogue, which this story
needs in order to explain its convoluted
premise and fill in the plot holes.
The Church, visualized through the
Vatican, is a main character, as it is in
Mission: Impossible III and The Omen.
Like Opus Dei (and other religious
orders before it), the Church is a big
target for the unflattering attention of
novelists. Despite the fact that we regret
the errors and misinformation, the negative
and false portrayals in the story, I
believe we can use this cultural phenomenon
as an opportunity to “break
open” the Nicene Creed that we recite
every Sunday at Mass, and begin to
reflect theologically on the God we
believe in and why.
My advice is to read the Gospels and
a good book on Church history, or take
a course in the Scriptures and Church
history. (See http://vlc.udayton.edu/
courses for online courses at the University
of Dayton.) This way we can
respond clearly to people who want to
talk to us about what we believe.
The Da Vinci Code (book and film)
will be around for some time. For the
sake of the Gospels, it seems wise to talk
about it, and renew and share our faith.
Let’s not keep the heritage of faith a
secret. Violence, killing, body mutilation;
some problem language.
AKEELAH AND THE BEE
AKEELAH AND THE BEE (A-1, PG):
Akeelah (Keke Palmer) is a young
student from South Los Angeles
with an extraordinary ability to
spell, even though she doesn’t
know what the words mean. After
Akeelah wins the school bee, Dr.
Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), a
reclusive UCLA professor, agrees to
coach her for the district bee.
The girl begins to learn personal
discipline and 5,000 new words. She
makes it to the nationals with the
help of her family, friends and people
in the community, including a
poetry-writing gang boss.
If you’ve gone into a Starbucks
lately, you’ll have noticed promotional
items for this film. Starbucks, already
known for its conscientious fair-trade
coffees and health-care benefits (even
for part-time employees), joined Lions
Gate Films to produce this fine movie.
Sounds like cultural and social responsibility
to me when corporations give
back to the community. An entertaining
story in which the hero is a young girl;
uplifts the human spirit while embracing
all ages and cultures.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (A-3; PG-13):
Alias creator J.J. Abrams directed and
co-wrote this high-octane thriller. Ethan
Hunt (Tom Cruise) is called back to
IMF (Impossible Missions Force) to rescue
an agent and gets involved in
searching for a secret artifact. Philip
Seymour Hoffman plays the villain. If
you like seeing Tom Cruise run at
breakneck speed and bungee-jump between tall buildings, even though
we never learn why, this might be the
film for you. Action violence throughout;
some problem language.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: In
addition to the outrageously
gay-themed comedy Will & Grace (eight seasons), the spy-opera
Alias (five seasons), the good-natured
slacker gang in the basement in That
70s Show (eight seasons), the wacky,
chatty family show Malcolm in the Middle (seven seasons) and the supernatural,
longest-running show with
all-female leads Charmed (eight seasons),
it is time to say good-bye, after
seven seasons, to one of television’s
finest dramas ever: The West Wing.
This series had interesting, flawed
characters who talked as fast as they
walked. It centered on a Democratic
administration taking care of the precarious
and delicate business of governing
the United States, continually
teaching the audience about politics,
civics, international relations and
human failings, questioning ethics and
morals. It entertained with melodrama
and moral dilemmas.
Although the writing dipped when
series creator-writer Aaron Sorkin left
the show, the last two seasons came
back strong. The series ended with
Democratic Congressman Matt Santos
(Jimmy Smits) elected as America’s first
Latino president and his opponent,
Republican Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan
Alda), becoming his secretary of state.
The series won 24 Emmy Awards,
including outstanding drama for four
years running. Some of the episodes I
remember best are “In Excelsis Deo”
(Toby plans a funeral for a veteran he
didn’t know), “Take This Sabbath Day”
(focusing on capital punishment, with
Karl Malden as a priest), “The Stackhouse
Filibuster” (a senator promotes
legislation to help autistic children),
“Two Cathedrals” (President Bartlet
questions why God is treating him so
badly after Mrs. Landingham dies).
Fans will miss the governing style
of President Jeb Bartlet (Martin Sheen)
and his administration, especially John
Spencer (who died last December) as
Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
INDEPENDENT LENS: A LION IN THE HOUSE
(PBS June 21-22: check local listings):
Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), the
author of Out of Africa and Babette’s
Feast, once wrote, “You know you’re
truly alive when you’re living among
lions.” This is the tag line for a stirring
two-part documentary that spends six
years at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
tracing the lives of five children facing
In a compassionate manner, it covers
the effects of cancer on the family
over the long term, including hospice
and end-of-life issues. Hours before the
documentary premiered at the Sundance
Film Festival, filmmaker Julia
Reichert was diagnosed with lymphoma.
SEVENTH HEAVEN (WB, Mondays): Rumors
of the demise of this series appear
to have been exaggerated. After 10 seasons
on The WB, the longest-running
family series will return this fall on The
CW, a new network (replacing UPN
and The WB) that is a joint venture of
CBS and Warner.
The charm of this series is its wholesome
minister’s family soap-like quality,
which appeals to a broad audience.