DVD REVIEW: The Da Vinci Code

Sony
Movie ••• Picture •••½ Sound •••• Extras •••
Like so many other literary translations, the film of The Da Vinci Code forces too many characters to stand around explaining things. But director Ron Howard does a serviceable job with the material, in his usual fashion. And he makes the most of the rare opportunity to shoot inside the Louvre by delivering one gorgeously spooky image after another.

All those dimly lit interiors sometimes succumb to a surprising graininess in this mostly sharp and detailed transfer. But as a travelogue, Code looks breathtaking: Paris, London, Scotland, and Malta are all completely alluring here. The richly textured images are meant to give the film a certain cultural weightiness - and for the most part, it works, as the visuals keep you focused when intricacies of the plot get a little too convoluted or unlikely.

The 5.1-channel mix is clean and powerful, emphasizing the echoey sounds of great museums and cathedrals. Even so, the dialogue never gets crowded - which is a good thing, given the density of verbiage. Hans Zimmer's score swells in time with both the shots and the storyline, enhancing the tension without overwhelming author Dan Brown's complex tale.

The second disc of this set is devoted to a 2-hour segmented documentary. Howard narrates or speaks on-camera throughout, but his boundless enthusiasm grates after only a short while. Although the sections are keyed mostly to specific topics like the Mona Lisa and the film's score, the material sometimes meanders haphazardly. It all comes off a little bloated and inconsequential, but fans will probably delight in the behind-the-scenes footage and in Brown's constant voicing of his heartfelt approval. [PG-13] English, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround; French and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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