So-so ‘Angels & Demons’ pulls back Vatican curtain


‘Angels & Demons’

Rated PG-13

Grade: C+

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When Hollywood golden boys Ron Howard and Tom Hanks team up, you are probably going to get a watchable movie -- sometimes excellent (“Apollo 13”), other times just barely passable (“The DaVinci Code”). Their newest release “Angels & Demons,” based on another Dan Brown bestselling novel, falls a few notches above passable.

Tom Hanks resumes the role of Professor Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist who specializes in the Catholic Church. Despite his previous entanglement with the church in “The DaVinci Code,” the Vatican has called upon him to help find four kidnapped cardinals, considered as favorites for the now-vacant papal throne, and locate a bomb that could easily destroy Vatican City.

The kidnappers claim to be members of the Illuminati, a group of intellectuals persecuted and driven underground by the Catholic Church in the 1600s. Langdon, of course, is an expert on the Illuminati and is therefore able to lead what turns out to be a full-scale scavenger hunt through Rome that reveals the centuries-long conflict between science and God.

Howard’s reliable talents as a filmmaker (and his large budgets) result in a visually appealing peek behind the Vatican walls, revealing the ceremonies, protocol, and politics behind the papal throne - from the security operations of the Swiss Guard to behind the locked doors of the conclave to elect the new pope.

Hank’s is similarly reliable in his performance -- When is he not? -- but his pretty scientist sidekick (Ayelet Zurer) offered little more than a classically Italian face and a few well-timed questions to spur the plot along.

Though no work of refined literature, the most interesting thing about the book “Angels & Demons” was the revelations about the mysterious Illuminati and their entanglements with the Church. Unfortunately, the film version crams this fascinating history into awkward conversational interludes between Hanks and Zurer that don’t allow the audience time to savor it. Predictably, each conversation quickly leads to the discovery of the next clue, and the chase is on yet again, and again, and again.