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Da Vinci Fails to Dazzle
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE DA VINCI CODE
AKELAH AND THE BEE
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
INDEPENDENT LENS: A LION IN THE HOUSE
SEVENTH HEAVEN
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS

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.

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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 cancer.

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.

 

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (not rated, PG-13): Written by Garrison Keillor and directed by Robert Altman (Gosford Park), the quirky, quasi-fantasy musical takes much of the material from the original show and includes some of the cast. The film, soundtrack, Keillor, Kevin Kline (as Guy Noir) and Meryl Streep (as Yolanda Johnson) are bound to garner some awards. Funny, touching and sometimes very earthy Minnesota humor throughout; lyrics with sexual innuendo; some problem language.

GOAL! (A-2; PG): Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) is an illegal immigrant playing soccer in Los Angeles when a scout notices him. While his father (Tony Plana) discourages him, Santiago’s grandmother (Miriam Colon) encourages him to follow his dreams. Two sequels are in production. Rough sports, some problem language, implied sexuality.

THE OMEN (not rated): This unnecessary remake of the 1976 original is updated, though its ideology is obscured by evildoing by a nanny (Mia Farrow) and her charge, Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). This horror film looks Catholic but is imbued with a kind of fringe theology that breeds fear and allows malevolence to prevail, despite the presence of a great many crucifixes. It’s written by David Seltzer, who scripted the original film as well as last year’s TV miniseries Revelations. Well produced but dark; graphic violence includes suicide, beheading and murder.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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