If Mel Gibson created a perfect storm with “The Passion of the Christ,” check the horizon next year for the film adaptation of the current blockbuster novel “The Da Vinci Code.”

But don’t look for Mel among the clouds, or in the audience.

Dan Brown’s novel, being adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”) and director Ron Howard, is a provocative and damning lecture on the history of Gibson’s Catholic Church. It’s embodied in a quest and a chase story.

The quest is about no less than the Holy Grail, and the people after it – a Harvard professor, an attractive French cop and a British knight – are being chased across Europe by the French police, Interpol and an albino monk-assassin whose expenses are being covered by the Vatican.

If you haven’t read “The Da Vinci Code,” or stories debunking it, you may want to stop reading, because its central argument, based on a millennium-old conspiracy theory that would turn Oliver Stone’s head, is about to be revealed.

That theory, put forth in scholarly detail in a 1980s nonfiction book titled “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” contends that Christianity is a faith founded on misogyny and on the lie that Jesus was divine. It holds that Christ was not only mortal, but married – to Mary Magdalene, the disciple to his immediate right in Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”

By the way, she was pregnant and Jesus’ bloodline exists to this day.

If you like that notion, Brown’s book has a million of ’em, and the genius of it is that they seem to make sense. Monica Bellucci, Mary in Mel’s film, should hang on to her robe. “The Da Vinci Code” is contemporary, but a dramatized Last Supper with a good-looking chick at the table would be a really interesting flashback.

The movie, still in the writing stages, reunites Howard, Goldsman and producer Brian Grazer, who are also collaborating on the Russell Crowe boxing movie “Cinderella Man,” which starts production next month. “Da Vinci” follows.

(c) 2004, New York Daily News.

Visit the Daily News online at http://www.nydailynews.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-03-25-04 1251EST

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