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Da Vinci Code crucified at Cannes

Ron Howard's film was ridiculed with whistles instead of being applauded.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 13:52 IST

The most hotly-awaited movie of the year, The Da Vinci Code, failed to crack an audience of movie critics at a sneak preview ahead of Wednesday's opening of the Cannes Film Festival.

Several whistles instead of applause were all that greeted the end of Ron Howard's $125-million film, and worse than that, the 2,000-strong audience even burst out laughing at the movie's key moment.

"I didn't like it very much. I thought it was almost as bad as the book. Tom Hanks was a zombie. Thank goodness for Ian McKellen. It was overplayed, there was too much music and it was much too grandiose," said Peter Brunette, critic for the US daily The Boston Globe.

The film version of Dan Brown's mega-best selling book premieres in Cannes on Wednesday before going on worldwide release on Friday. It stars Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon, called in after the curator of the Louvre is found murdered, his body splayed out covered in symbols.

Langdon and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, played by French actress Audrey Tautou, find themselves ensnared in a mystifying hunt to track down the murderer and solve a 2,000-year-old riddle.

The book has already sold some 50 million copies worldwide, been translated into 44 languages and spawned a spin-off tourist industry as well as whipping up a controversy. All ingredients to ensure that it will undoubtedly draw the crowds.

The greatest controversy has been stirred by the book's central theme that Jesus Christ married and had children whose descendants still survive today.

Thus book's detractors will no doubt be comforted to hear that when Hanks reveals who is supposedly the last surviving descendant of Jesus, the Cannes audience couldn't hold back their laughter.

Other critics said the two and a half hour film was confusing to those who hadn't read the book.

"People were confused, there was no applause, just silence," said Margherita Ferrandino from the Italian television Rai 3.

"I have only read half the book, and then I got bored. It's terrible," she added. "It was really disappointing. The dialogue was cheesy. The acting wasn't too bad, but the film is not as good as the book," added Lina Hamchaoui, from British radio IRN.

Despite being filmed against the backdrop of some of Paris' and London's most impressive and historic buildings - Howard was even given unprecedented permission to film inside the Louvre - the film fails to convince, becoming more of a drama-documentary with its overuse of historic flashbacks and other devices to tell the tale.

Hanks seems to get bogged down in the interminable dialogue, whereas Tautou, so brilliant in "Amelie", fails to make an impression.

McKellen however received plaudits for his portrayal of Holy Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing, playing his role with the right amount of wit and humour.

And Paul Bettany is suitably menacing as a self-flagellating albino monk on a mission to kill. The film was due to open the 59th Cannes Film Festival later Wednesday, before the real competition gets underway on Thursday, with 20 films competing this year for the coveted Palme d'Or.