Those who absolutely have to see Dan Brown’s novel turned into talking pictures with a degree of fidelity will already know who they are, but for the rest of us, does the publishing phenomenon stand up on celluloid? Well, the money’s certainly there on screen, as the elaborate puzzle surrounding the murder of a Louvre curator and the religious mystery that may not have died with him wends its tourist trail through Paris, London’s Temple Church and Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel. But as Tom Hanks’ populist academic and his plucky sidekick Audrey Tautou (the dead man’s grand-daughter) try to join the dots before sundry clerical and anti-clerical nasties get there first, it swiftly becomes apparent there’s a serious surfeit of plot over character. There are grandiose ideas here positing an alternative history of Christianity, but to get to them, reams and reams of questionable history and individual backstory have to be dutifully trotted out, stretching credibility and leaving potentially arresting themes utterly uninvolving.
All this gives the high-powered cast little to go on (though cranky professor Ian McKellen makes a better fist of it than most), while the slackly handled thriller elements fail to provide the pick-me-up the film desperately needs. Completing the trail of cryptic clues simply becomes an end in and of itself – think ‘Sudoku: The Movie’ – with little in the way of whimsy, star chemistry or excitement to enliven the dour plod. One thing though: if you’re casting a self-flagellating, Latin-speaking, friar-hooded, freaky-eyed albino psycho, Paul Bettany is clearly your man. Decidedly missable.