Why IS the Mona Lisa Smiling?
I am not the first—and I certainly will not be the last—to complain about Hollywood’s uncanny ability in recent years to turn a good book into a bad motion picture.
Sure there are some exceptions to the movies-from-books-suck rule. Fight Club, overall, was well done; last year’s Big Fish was quite good. But most of the time we end up instead with something like The Bourne Identity, The Time Machine, or American Psycho. Even 2003’s Cat in the Hat was a letdown from the book.
So it is strange indeed that I find myself a bit optimistic as I await the release next year of a film derived from a popular novel. No, it is not because I am anticipating another massacre of a quality tome … quite the opposite.
This film really SHOULD be better than the book.
Coming to a theater near you in May 2006: The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown’s mammoth-selling novel of the same name.
Maybe you have heard of it. Or maybe you have been trapped on a mysterious island with Charlie from Party of Five. Pick one or the other, there is no third option.
The book, quite simply, was a worldwide blockbuster.
But it just was not that good. The writing was wooden, the plot progression clunky.
So how can I be even cautiously positive?
Well, for starters, the book’s concept had more promise than Dan Brown delivered. I love the idea of a well-crafted story that combines suspense and action with legend and historical controversy. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, for example, does it well. Perhaps director Ron Howard can do better on the screen than Brown did on the page.
One good sign: The makers passed on Brown and instead had Akiva Goldsman pen the screenplay. Not that Batman Forever was the stuff of Oscars, but it is a step in the right direction.
Another: The makers got Jean Reno—the talented albeit overused as serious-and-gruff-yet-likeable middle-aged Frenchman—to play a key role. Reno shined in The Professional and Ronin; he even made the first Mission Impossible not totally suck.
And another: The early movie poster shows the Mona Lisa, not the lead actor. A nice trend, also used in War of the Worlds—which would be a rare good trend in the film industry if it gains momentum.
So, despite all the obvious reasons why this will be a Hollywood blockbuster with more flash than substance, I must remain hopeful. I just WANT this to be a better movie than it was a book. Please, can I have just this one favor?
The biggest obstacle in my way is Forrest Gump.
Yes, that is right—I said Forrest Gump. The lead role, the part of the egg-headed symbologist Robert Langdon, is handled by Tom Hanks.
I will admit that Hanks has performed admirably in several films, but I would have preferred Kevin Spacey.
Or even Jude Law. I've heard the screenplay, unlike the book, has Robert Langdon screwing a nanny.