Most film critics are going to scoff at the idea of a big, glossy Hollywood flick like The Da Vinci Code opening the Cannes Film Festival; at the same time, there's so much hoopla over Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code -- the book, the spin-offs, the associated documentaries and attempts to capitalize on the 40 million copies of Brown's book already out in the marketplace -- that to not cover the film would essentially infuriate any newspaper or magazine editor, who's been using the Da Vinci Code's popularity to fill space in the Lifestyle, Religion, Travel, Book and Film sections for the past year or more.
So, before the Cannes Film Festival even began, Tuesday night saw an 8:30 press screening of The Da Vinci Code -- Ron Howard's two-and-a-half-hour-plus adaptation of Brown's mega-seller -- in the Debussy theater in the Palais Du Cinema, with many press corps members (including yours truly) only having been in Cannes for a few hours, jet-lagged and ready to be underwhelmed. The Da Vinci Code's story makes it a seeming natural for Cannes: A plucky, can-do American hero (played by Tom Hanks) works with a knowledgeable, stalwart European (Audrey Tatou) to defeat an ancient conspiracy and work for the greater good. It's the kind of film you could imagine playing to big audiences worldwide; more importantly, with the investment Sony's made in the pic, it needs to play to big audiences worldwide in order to make a profit.
And The Da Vinci Code was met with a pretty lukewarm reception last night; no applause at the finale, and the film's big reveal -- spoken by Hanks with the kind of earnestness that begs for mockery on Saturday Night Live -- was greeted with derisive laughter. The Da Vinci Code may be the perfect film to open Cannes -- emblematic of big Hollywood's hunger for international box office and the star-powered buzz the Festival both creates and feeds on -- but it's far from perfect as a film.