Several years ago, in 2006, I wrote a travel piece on the Frist Museum in Nashville entitled 'The Decent Docent'. It reviewed the museum and a couple of it's exhibits and the one element that made it totally worth an afternoon visit - one of their engaging docents, Marcel. His spiels about the various pieces were totally entertaining and informative; it gave you reason to examine each piece carefully even if it wasn't your favorite piece. The right docent can make even the mos nondescript item a masterpiece.


Two months or so after writing the piece, what to you know, Ron Howard released his adaptation of the Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" starring Tom Hanks. Throughout the film, Hank's character Robert Langdon describes details and little known historical facts about works of art that are right in front of your face - at the Louvre in Paris. It was a boon for Paris tourism and the world famous museum as people sought to see the clues themselves. It happened again in "Angels and Demons" only in Rome at the Vatican, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and a few other neat places.


I have often thought how cool it would be to have Tom Hanks as you museum docent for the day - even if he was making the stuff up - his delivery would be impeccable and engaging. If there is ever a decision to convert Brown's third book - The Lost Symbol - Sony should consider a stunt that has Tom Hanks making appearances as guest-docent around the world in various museums.

Needless to say, anyone who has read my reviews enough, knows that whenever I stall like this - talking about everything else but the actual film - it must mean that I don't think much of the film. And I don't. At least, if it follows the book in the least bit, then the book itself has a gang of holes in the story which makes me wonder why it would be adapted before the third book!


Hanks returns as Langdon and this time is is immediately joined by Doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who is treating him for amnesia, a condition he inexplicably has at the onset when he awakens in a hospital with a lump and cut on his head. A lump and cut that quickly vanishes by the next scene!


Within minutes, there is an attempt on his life, Sienna helps him escape and just like that, the game is afoot. They come to possess a nifty ancient projector stored inside a piece of human bone and realize the projection is of Botticelli's Map of Hell, which is based on Dante's Inferno. Faster than you can say "Tom Hanks sure is smart", Langdon's memory returns enough for him to start solving the mystery which has to do with the release of a cataclysmic epidemic that will wipe out most of the human population.

The virus was developed by billionaire Bertand Zobrist (Ben Foster) who, much like Sam Jackson's Valentine character from "Kingsman: The Secret Service", feels that the world population needs to be decreased drastically. Unlike Valentine though, Zobrist is fundamentally a flat, undeveloped character - which is not a good trait for the villain.


The story progresses with the World Health Organization chasing Langdon along with an unknown entity known only as The Consortium. They are represented repectively by an old flame of Langdon's Elizabeth Sinsky (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and a secret agent-type Harry (Irrfan Khan). By now, every one is pointing a finger at everyone else while Langdon has to wallow through a mire of vanishing clues that lead to Dante's Death Mask in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.


Quick as a wink, we are zooming across Europe to Istanbul to visit the Hagia Sophia and Enrico Dandolo's tomb which is where they think the virus is being stored. Whew!


Faster than you can say "What the...?" the film is wrapping itself in an unfinished ribbon of mediocrity. The only thing left to do is Google the various sites and artifacts mentioned and decide if you are interested in visiting the locations yourself or to let it be. Florence and Istanbul are hoping that you will heed to your curiosity and come visit. This beautifully shot film is an outstanding travelogue and Hanks proves to be the highest paid docent in the universe.


For his part, Hanks is steady as a rock giving an unwavering performance consistent with the two previous installments. It is Irrfan Kahn who steals every scene in which

he appears, providing perfectly timed humor. The rest of the characters are so flat and distinguished they are practically invisible.


"Inferno" has more holes than mosquito netting and makes as much sense as Donald Trump. Were it not for Tom Hanks steady performance and the incredible photography, this Ron Howard production would be a total bust.   -- GEOFF BURTON