[UPDATE: Read our own Owen Gleiberman’s take on The Da Vinci Code here.]

There’s some new scholarship on The Da Vinci Code: It’s, um, not so great. This, according to critics at the Cannes Film Festival. Certain portions of the film — including the reportedly heightened melodrama of the third act — seem to draw titters and guffaws. And that’s the most encouraging news I’ve heard yet. There’s now a slim chance I’ll actually go on opening weekend.

Let me explain: If you’ve read the book, you know it kind of fizzles out toward the end. Well, it appears screenwriter Akiva Goldsman has fixed that. I don’t know what he’s done, but apparently, it’s highly entertaining, though perhaps not in the way it was intended to be. I’m guessing baby birds hatch in Tom Hanks hair and twitter some key plot point in ecclesiastical Latin. Or maybe Hanks and Audrey Tautou pull up to a remote farmhouse on a dusty road in Arkansas… close-up on a mailbox marked “The Jesuses.”

Ah, well. Are we really surprised? The novel furnishes almost nothing in terms of character motivation, and the plot structure is really nothing but a series of puzzles. And, to think, this is the story that’s made all Christianity tremble. Then again, every era gets the parables it deserves.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The major critics are just starting to weigh in. Ebert may still lift his holy thumb heavenward. Sure is looking like another case of lightning-rod mediocrity, though. I mean, we’re not exactly rioting over The Rite of Spring here. Why can’t our cultural flashpoints — Da Vinci, “The Star Spangled Banner” in Spanish, etc. — ever correlate with better art?