THEY had been transported in their own private train from London to the most glamorous film festival in the world. But director Ron Howard and the principal cast of The Da Vinci Code faced a bit of a reality check upon their arrival in Cannes yesterday.

Religious objections to the film's intimation that Jesus married and had children have been gathering steam across the globe - and to add insult to injury, the first critics to see it have been less than kind. Still, the way star Tom Hanks spun it at yesterday's press conference, it's all a gamble. "This is the granddaddy of all film festivals, and the World Cup of red carpets, " said the actor, who plays codebreaker Robert Langdon in the GBP66.4m adaptation of Dan Brown's bestseller.

For the majority of reviewers who had seen the film in Cannes, however, the problem was not one of ideology, but quality. Indeed, the sole nun holding a prayer vigil on the red carpet yesterday appeared to be taking the film rather more seriously than the critics have. The American entertainment industry bible Variety called The Da Vinci Code "a stodgy, grim thing", and predicted that its weaknesses would serve to dampen rather than stimulate controversy.

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Manuel Sanchez Hurtado, spokesman for Opus Dei, the Catholic movement depicted as a murderous cult in the film, said: "Soon this regrettable but fleeting episode will be forgotten."