Dan Brown's spectacularly successful The DaVinci Code isn't anti-Catholic. It's anti-English. As in the language. While the Church can easily survive a silly pop thriller, I'm not sure the millions who've read the Code can stomach the assault on their literary minds. A.O. Scott nailed it today in his brilliant Times review of the new Tom Hanks vehicle, which is out to universal non-acclaim:
To their credit the director and his screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman (who collaborated with Mr. Howard on "Cinderella Man" and "A Beautiful Mind"), have streamlined Mr. Brown's story and refrained from trying to capture his, um, prose style. "Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino with long white hair." Such language — note the exquisite "almost" and the fastidious tucking of the "which" after the preposition — can live only on the page.
To be fair, though, Mr. Goldsman conjures up some pretty ripe dialogue all on his own. "Your God does not forgive murderers," Audrey Tautou hisses to Paul Bettany (who play a less than enormous, short-haired albino). "He burns them!"
The hilarious "controversy" over the Code's alleged attack on the Church just sells tickets, to a movie that almost by definition has to be better than a dreadful book (I mean, can Hanks and Ron Howard fail to create a not unpleasant two hours)? As the Sawpit says: no one has a monopoly on Jesus. And as Gandalf, er, Ian McKellen told The Today Show this morning: how come there's no disclaimer in the front of the Bible? Different stories, different people, different truths. Or to quote Variety: Catholic League Ballistic. Ticket Sales Soar.
Book, meanwhile, remains a poorly-written, fact-challenged bit of fluffery.
So tonight there's Chris Matthews doing HardBall live from the Lexington Avenue headquarters of Opus Dei, doing his best Larry King imitation - "So Father, the Pope, great man, dead yesterday, already on his way to heaven? Or already there?"