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Review: 'Angels & Demons' Is Fun And A Serviceable Summer Thriller

May 14th, 2009 9:37am EDT
Angels and DemonsRemember the movie The Man With One Red Shoe? Tom Hanks played an unsuspecting concert violinist who is mistaken for a spy. It was not particularly well made and it was not particularly funny but, hey, it had Dabney Coleman! What it also had was Hanks in the midst of his kinda-silly-movie era -- which also included Volunteers, Dragnet and The Money Pit -- movies that meant nothing, but at least they sort of realized that. What does this have to do with Hanks' new film, Angels and Demons? Not a lot. Other than I kind of miss silly-movie-era Hanks, at times, and Angels and Demons didn't quite get the memo that it isn't an important movie.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy Hanks' fourth outing with director Ron Howard, Angles and Demons. I actually did. Which was surprising because I did not enjoy the film version of its quite successful predecessor, The Da Vinci Code. Hanks (this time sporting a much better haircut) again plays symbologist Robert Langdon -- quite surprising to realize this is Hanks' first sequel/prequel if you don't count the animated Toy Story films -- who's once again summoned to help crack a code wile under the backdrop of the Catholic Church (maybe next time it will be the Lutherans). This time four cardinals have been kidnapped, and one will be executed every hour, followed by a massive explosion of unstable anti-matter (yes, really), unless Langdon succeeds.

Angels and Demons

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Admittedly, the background circumstances of the film, the election of a new Pope, is riveting. I can still remember being captivated in 2005 when this scene played out in real life -- of course without all the, you know, anti-matter -- checking the television throughout the day to see if the magical white smoke, signifying a successful election, had occurred. Knowing the election really wouldn't effect me personally was insignificant, the centuries-old tradition is hard to not find fascinating. This is what also makes the film somewhat fascinating, the real-life history lesson as our hero fights fictional crime.

Perhaps, too, the fact I hadn't read the book, Angels and Demons, helps the enjoyability factor. I had read The Da Vinci Code -- among with the rest of the world -- and I found myself watching a paint-by-numbers film that seemed to play out better in my head. It's possible this film is the same way, but since I have no knowledge of the numbered canvas, it at least, for me, creates the illusion of an improvised painting.

Angels and Demons is more than serviceable as a summer action/thriller and Hanks seems to be having fun. I just can't get past the thought that when Tom Hanks stars in films that don't really matter, as opposed to his Oscar bait projects, I just kind of wish he would choose a film, every now and then, that knows it doesn't matter ... just like the old days. May I suggest The Man With TWO Red Shoes?

Grade: B-

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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