Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code.
RJ the raccoon and Hammy the squirrel in Over the Hedge.
Cryptograms, woodland critters and brooding French people... NPR film guru Bob Mondello gives us the scoop on this weekend's movies:
The Da Vinci Code: A symbologist and a cryptologist go on a scavenger hunt for the Holy Grail as Christianity hangs in the balance. The plot plays less mysteriously on screen than on the page, partly because two and a half hours of earnest conversations about anagrams, even when they're conducted in cars racing backwards across Paris are still just two and a half hours of earnest conversations about anagrams. The controversies that have attached themselves to the film — about whether it is, at root, blasphemous, about its treatment of the Catholic Church, even about its treatments of albinos (there's a crazed, self-flagellating albino assassin monk) may be its biggest selling points, given the by-the-book adaptation Ron Howard has come up with. It's smooth, clear and a little dull, with perfectly acceptable performances by Tom Hanks (symbologist), Audrey Tautou (cryptologist), Ian McKellen (eccentric Brit knight) and Paul Bettany (crazed, self-flagellating albino assassin monk... I just like typing that). Given the millions of people who've loved the book, the film's bound to open well. Whether it will sustain… well, in Hollywood, there's a code.
Over the Hedge: Looking down your nose at suburbia when that's where most of your audience lives. Hmmmm... and who thought this was a smart marketing move? The picture's story is about some woodland critters that wake up from hibernation to discover they're surrounded by a whole subdivision (if you're planning a renovation, you might want to get that builder's number). A raccoon talks them into switching from a diet of wholesome nuts and berries to a diet of chips and sugar-stuffed pastries, and mildly diverting complications ensue. The film's not awful — it endorses family pretty strenuously and the digitally animated fur looks real. But the best thing about it is its cast of voices: Bruce Willis as a sneaky raccoon, Nick Nolte a blustery bear, Garry Shandling a commonsensical turtle, Steve Carrell a hyperactive squirrel, and Wanda Sykes as a skunk who's insecure about her sex appeal. Charm and inspiration aren't its long suits, but tykes will go for it.
Lemming: A French designer of home surveillance devices invites his boss over for dinner, and almost immediately, his life starts to go wrong. The boss' wife (Charlotte Rampling) has no sooner sat down to salad before she's accusing her husband of cheating, tossing a drink in his face, and more or less freaking everyone out. Things only go downhill from there. Waaaaay downhill, in fact, with suicides, car crashes, and a stopped-up drain that turns out to have a small rodent (the title creature) stuck in it. A metaphor for... well, hard to say, really. Rampling's harpy is certainly persuasive and Dominic Moll's direction's as creepy as it was in his With a Friend Like Harry, but the tension is far stronger when the plot's mysteries are being eerily laid out than they are when they're being far less eerily explained away.