Angels & Demons
Let’s all play “Where’s Waldo?”

Theatrical Release Date: 05/15/2009
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Predictably, there is a religious uproar regarding director Ron Howard’s newest installment of Dan Brown’s novels-turned-films, “Angels & Demons’”. As it was with “The Da Vinci Code“, many of the conclusions drawn by the main character of Robert Langdon go against accepted dogma.

Just like with the previous film, it appears that organized religion is also best served by just ignoring the projects entirely. There’s no such thing as bad press so any attention, no matter its negativity, only serves to drive up the box office. And while I may have looked somewhat favorably on the first installment (my esteem has dropped since my initial viewing but what’s been written has been written), I can’t in good conscience go along with Howard and Tom Hanks’ second dip into the Dan Brown pool.

The basic premise here is that during the election of a new Pope (due to the demise of the old one), a plot to destroy the Vatican is hatched. It consists of the kidnapping and murder of Cardinals, all as a prelude to a bomb capable of taking out a chunk of the city surrounding the Vatican along with it.

While there is a brand new cast of characters, the biggest change this time around is Hanks’ new haircut. Rather than sporting the ridiculously un-hip mullet, the famous symbologist Robert Langdon kept his locks closer to the skull and the result is a character far easier to take seriously (especially because Hanks is an uninspired choice to being with).

Really, he and the other actors all do capable jobs. The standouts would be Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Ewan McGregor, who helped to create a few sparks of interest but it doesn’t cover up the basic problems inherent in this film sequel/novel prequel (don’t get me started on that).

The script and direction come off as a mix of boredom and hyperbole. Lines like “It’s a pentagram!” are reminiscent and possibly even cheesier than the first film’s “Da Vinci!” Actually, with about twenty minutes to go (and this film runs well past the 2-hour mark, not helping things) the entire picture devolves into some sad, twisted version of Scooby Doo.

I realize that part of that is due to the manner in which the novel unfolds, but the way in which Howard brings the film to its conclusion is like flipping a switch – as if someone following the film’s progress came on set one day and said “Hey, shouldn’t we wrap this up?” and that’s how we get the film’s final act.

The novel (my personal favorite of Dan Brown’s) is a tense thriller, drawing the reader in as Langdon attempts to close in on the killer. Howard fails to capitalize on any of this and the result is a fairly tedious exercise in watching Hanks and company try to get ahead of the film’s villainous events. What should be a taut thrill-ride is a ho-hum journey from church to church, sort of like a sightseeing tour with a few dead bodies along the way.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, as Howard’s forte is in traditional drama, sprinkled with small bits of action. With “Angels & Demons” (like with “The Da Vinci Code”), the essence of the story is movement and action, elements that Howard doesn’t do well and only adds up to a 2 out of 5. Sadly, even with the improvements to Hanks’ take on the role (mostly via the haircut) and a more action-packed story, the end result is still not anything worth your hard earned cash.