Directed by Ron Howard


Ive never read any of Dan Browns massively popular Robert Langdon novels, so you must forgive me for asking: Are these books as ridiculously fucking stupid as the films theyve inspired?

I guess you can call Angels and Demons a step up from 2006s unspeakably turgid adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, if only because its a good deal more frantic and unhinged than that burnished, lethargic yak-fest. This batshit boondoggle begins with a time bomb full of anti-matter (yes, kids, anti-matter) stashed somewhere in Vatican City, and only gets more preposterous. Late-game developments in this picture provoked peals of laughter the likes of which Ive seldom heard at comedies. I daresay its Ron Howards funniest film since Splash! But not on purpose.

Howard seems like an affable enough guy whose work is usually distinguished by a friendly sort of competence, but for some reason he keeps approaching Browns gimcrack plotting and Wikipedia storytelling with the solemnity of a funeral march. It must take serious strain to make an actor as playful and mischievous as Tom Hanks so dull. But here Hanks goes again, reprising his role as surly symbologist Langdon with his charisma tamped down flatter than his unfortunate hairstyle.

As in Da Vinci, Hanks main task is to wander around pointing at statues and mumbling obscure art history footnotes while everybody else on-screen marvels at his intellectual prowess. This time, the Illuminati have seemingly returned to wreak vengeance on the Catholic Church, so we must witness a host of grisly murders and races against time, all of which take place before gaudy CGI backdrops. (A similar thought occurred during Wolverine: Doesnt anybody bother to build sets anymore? What happened to just filming actors occupying a recognizable physical space? Must everything be done inside a computer? Most of these chintzy Vatican interiors look more like the planet Naboo from those damn Star Wars prequels.)

Howard cranks up the Gregorian chants, keeping the lighting dim and the mood glum. But the materials inherent silliness throws the ponderous self-seriousness of its presentation into sharp comic relief. Are we supposed to buy that Hanks might just happen to inadvertently stumble upon a convenient videotape of the villain explaining his plan at exactly the right moment? Do people really read this crap?


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