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Movie critics frustrate ‘Da Vinci’s’ Howard

‘There’s a disconnect between audience response and critics’ says director

Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou and Ron Howard
Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP
Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou and Ron Howard arrive for the screening of "The Da Vinci Code," at the 59th International film festival in Cannes. Howard is frustrated with critics' negative reviews of the film.
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Updated: 2:31 p.m. ET May 22, 2006

CANNES, France - “Frustrating” was how director Ron Howard described the overwhelmingly negative reviews of his eagerly awaited movie “The Da Vinci Code,” but he believed the news was not all bad.

Critics and movie-goers often disagree, Howard said, and some people at preview screenings had found the film starring Tom Hanks more rewarding on the second viewing than on the first.

“I don’t really read [the reviews] at the time that we’re coming out, because it’s too touchy a subject for me,” Howard, 52, told Reuters at an exclusive hotel on the Mediterranean coast outside Cannes.

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“I like to know what’s going on, so I get a sentence or two of description.”

Months after a film’s release, Howard said, he collects reviews to see what the consensus among critics was.

The reaction immediately after the first press screening at the Cannes film festival on Tuesday was mainly negative, with trade publication Variety setting the tone by calling the $125 million picture “stodgy” and “grim.”

Many people in the audience at the screening laughed at the pivotal moment, and the ending was greeted with stony silence.

The New York Post was in the minority with a glowing appraisal, calling the film “crackling” and “irresistible.”

“The Da Vinci Code” has attracted unusual attention thanks to the religious controversy surrounding the Dan Brown bestseller on which it is based.

A central concept of the story is that Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene and that the Church resorted to murder to try to cover up the truth, prompting objections from Christian groups and officials at the Vatican.

The film’s performance at the box office is also important this year after the summer’s first two blockbusters — “Mission: Impossible III” and “Poseidon” — failed to meet expectations.

Critics, audiences can disagree
Howard said the critical reaction did not necessarily reflect what the public would think.

“There’s a disconnect between the audience response and the critics. The critics are running a bit more to the negative and with audiences we’ve been running much more to the positive.”

That has been supported by forecasts from experts in the key United States market for a strong opening weekend starting on Friday. They say the film could earn $50 to $80 million in its first three days.

Howard even had a suggestion on how to boost that number.

“This sounds a little hucksterish, but people really respond to the movie better the second time than they do the first time.”

But Howard added: “Of course it’s frustrating that some of the critics have been harsh with it, and that’s disappointing, because I’m the type of person that likes to please everyone.

“I think with this project, that’s an impossibility and I’ve kind of known that all along.”

The director of critically acclaimed movies including “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind” realized he was taking a risk by agreeing to make “The Da Vinci Code.”

“If you’re not willing to take some chances, particularly at this stage of my career, then what are you doing? I know I’ve been commercially successful, but I’m not really a guy looking for safe, middle-of-the-road success.”

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
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