Hey, who wants to play witty one-liner? Angels and Demons totally does but, after a while, Ron Howard's new action/conspiracy flick about kidnapped bishops, secret societies and an agnostic professor wants to do little else.

Oh, and one more thing: There is washed-up preachy Catholic and academic trivia, lots of it. I mean, tons.

But, I'm not saying everyone stands around talking too much; they get shit done. There's plenty of sexy black cars racing around Rome set to daunting chorus music. After all is said and done, the evildoers are caught and put in their place by the True Light. Good job on the research, Howard, but if you can't learn to play fair, I'm not giving you a cookie.

Angels and Demons, actually a prequel to The Da Vinci Code (tell your friends), introduces us to the most unlikely of the Indiana Jones descendents: professor Robert Langdon of Harvard University. Vatican police ask for Langdon's help to find four missing archbishops believed to be in the hands of the Illuminati.

The Illuminati plans to execute one old man an hour, every hour, until midnight. After that, a stolen container of atomic particles, called "antimatter," is set to explode, at which point the Vatican will be "consumed by light." The antimatter fascinates everyone to an extreme. Langdon realizes aloud in yet another one-liner that it contains "the beginning of time," as in, before the explosion of the Big Bang. Ooh, how intriguing. Spirituality through science? Like, for real?

To fill everyone in, the Illuminati is the secret society that wants revenge on the Vatican for the executions of several of its progressive-thinking radicals like Galileo. Langdon would say they're the bad guys for the good reasons. Oh, another dramatic one-liner. Snap.

Hanks is good, but he gives Langdon an overly suave edge that makes his intellect believable but seems campy when he gets his hands dirty. He arrives in the Vatican as the new Pope is being selected. Langdon manages to offend everyone with his agnosticism, dragging cops around Rome with him while spouting plenty of badass lines and trivia in the process.

Ewan McGregor emerges, seemingly the only good-natured guy in robes amid grouchy old men of the faith. While they all are sorting out mysteries from ancient texts and scanning the city for alchemically inspired statues, plenty of screen time is given to snarky news reporters. A desperate screenplay turns what might have been insightful commentary on the nature of the media and speculation into a waste of time.

Howard tries to make up for lost time with car chases that would be thrilling were they not there just for the sake of racy camera work. Maybe he knows how unnecessary all the mayhem is, hence the hamming it up on the scholarly front. Oh, how informed our screenwriters are.

Angels and Demons
Directed by Ron Howard
With Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer and Stellan Skarsgard

Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
140 min., PG-13