A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Angels & Demons, the adaptation of Dan Brown's pre-Da Vinci Code novel about ancient religious conspiracy theories and a secret society has more deaths than the first movie. The action starts with a gruesome murder and theft, and the violence continues throughout, as cardinals are taken hostage and killed in public, shocking ways. Plus, it's implied that prominent priests and the Vatican's Swiss Guard conspire to commit murder and cover up scandals. Language is generally mild, and there's no sex to speak of; some characters smoke.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In The Da Vinci Code, Harvard professor Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) nearly brought down the Catholic Church, but in ANGELS & DEMONS, he's asked to help save it. The pope has died, and just as the conclave of cardinals is about to meet to elect a new one, four of them are taken hostage by a group claiming to be the resurrection of the Illuminati -- an ancient secret society historically at odds with the church. The kidnappers announce that they'll publicly murder each of the hostages and then detonate a powerful vial of anti-matter stolen from a top-secret Swiss project run by the beautiful Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer). Racing against time, the world-renowned symbologist and his new sidekick scientist follow hidden clues to try to stop the killings -- and the possible destruction of the Vatican.
Is it any good?
Brown's thrillers are packed with so much exposition that it should come as no surprise that this sequel, like The Da Vinci Code, is overlong and way too talky. It's a bit preposterous to imagine that a priest -- much less a cardinal or the head of the Swiss Guard (Stellan Skarsgard) -- would need a lecture on major milestones in church history. But it's all for the audience's benefit, since few people understand the minutiae about how a pope is elected, what the Illuminati stood for, or even what anti-matter is supposed to achieve.
While director Ron Howard scores some extra points for downplaying the role of the hired assassin and including several high-speed car chases, there's just no saving Angels & Demons from getting mired in all of Brown's ridiculous, conspiracy-theory details. At least Hanks has a much less conspicuous haircut, and Ewan McGregor, as the late pope's right-hand man, is effective as a priest straddling progressive and conservative paths for the church. But the best part of the thriller isn't the story or the chases -- it's Armin Mueller- Stahl as Cardinal Strauss. He's truly one of the most versatile, international actors of his generation, and he's a pleasure to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the premise of Angels & Demons. The first movie's central conspiracy theory upset Christians across the globe, but this one has been deemed inaccurate but "harmless" by the Catholic Church. Why the change of perspective?
In general, does controversy help promote a movie?
Discuss how the violence in this movie compares to the first one. Does it have more or less impact? Why?
- In theaters: May 15, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 24, 2009
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tom Hanks
- Director: Ron Howard
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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