The Da Vinci Code

It may turn out to be the best movie this summer.

"The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" secularly head for the coast as I remember American Pie reporting. The Sisters of Saint Joseph had a decidedly different take for this Catholic boy, one that brooked no argument against the divinity of the Son, Jesus Christ.

So with what glee have I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and seen the faithful film version directed by Ron Howard. Anyone who would dare compromise the nun's version to posit Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene is an instant hero for this critically thinking, subsequently Jesuit-trained professor and film critic, whose skepticism the well-wimpled ones punished mercilessly and regularly.

The film, with Tom Hanks as the Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who helps unravel a centuries-old mystery about the Holy Grail and the uncelibate Christ, is a lengthy debate about the truth of the myth and the place of Opus Dei and the Knights Templar in the history of the church's violent past. Regardless of where you stand on the possibility that Christ was not divine, this film makes you interested in the debate and immediately suspicious of the Catholic Church's goodness.

But that skepticism is healthy in many ways, not dangerous at all to the doctrinaire leadership like the nuns, yet in this film the conservative church groups fear questions enough to murder in the name of the Lord. So the laity joins the priests in beating the devil at his own game. Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ dwells overly long on the physical suffering of Christ; Howard and Brown dwell too much on the thrills of the chase. As Jimmy Durante quipped, "Everybody wants to get into the act." The film is so faithful to the novel that the slowest part of the film, the chase after the intellectual exposition of the theory by the mesmerizing Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabling, is just as weak as it is in the novel.

The Da Vinci Code may turn out to be the best movie this summer: It's faithful to the novel, intelligent in exposition, and an easy 2 1/2 hrs of intrigue. The translation of Brown's provocative theories alone should please the highbrows; the thriller component should satisfy the summer sunbathers.