Inferno

At the Cinemark

(PG-13)

Grade: C

When last we met Tom Hanks, he was deftly landing a commercial airliner on the Hudson River.

“Aw, shucks, was only just doing my job,” sort of said Sully, aka Hanks.

That performance should earn Hanks an Oscar nomination.

That may not be his only nomination this year. Hanks may also earn a Razzie nomination from Harvard as worst actor of the year for his “work” in “Inferno.”

How cool would it be to win both!? Best and worst simultaneously.

At its heart, “Inferno” is about a bad guy preparing to release a virus in the world that authorities fear will kill two-thirds of the world’s population.

The villain is concerned about the harms of overpopulation, so he’s devised a simple solution: Reinstitute the plague. Problem solved.

If you remember the “Da Vinci Code” then you are likely aware that “Inferno” is a branch of that conspiratorial tree that reflects on such matters as Catholicism, ancient artifacts, museums and Dante.

“Inferno” is a James Bond movie, pure and simple. Bad guy wants to destroy the world. Time is running out. Send in 007. In this case, however, Bond becomes Harvard Professor Robert Langdon.

For the record, Harvard -- in a playful unstuffy moment -- said that although they’re sure Tom Hanks’ courses “would be filled to overflowing” that they haven’t considered creating a department of symbology.

“Which must be symbolic of something,” said the wry press release.

Author Dan Brown has worked very hard to wrap this silly plague-filled premise inside ancient historical and religious trappings, so we’ll think we’re on a scholarly journey. Professor Langdon loves going from museum to museum looking for clues.

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This story is hung up on Dante, thus the title “Inferno.” The story starts with a dazed Tom Hanks finding in his pocket a mysterious cylinder that includes Botticelli’s “Map of Hell,” which is an ancient Google map guide to Dante’s “Inferno.”

The gullible professor thinks he’s chasing Dante, when he’s actually chasing a psychotic mad man.

For diversion, there’s a pretty nurse who becomes Hanks’ buddy for this adventure. We also meet an older lady who, apparently, is the long lost lover in Hanks’ life. They seem to still yearn for one another.

These old friends say things that I translated thusly: “Do you ever wonder what might have been?” and “Maybe it could still be?” and “I still got inferno-level hots for you.”

Hanks delivers an almost embarrassing performance as he tries to convince us he cares about this character and this story. Stars like Hanks live paycheck to paycheck, hoping the last $20 million payday can somehow get them through the winter.

I will admit I enjoyed the travelogue to Europe’s magical destinations such as Florence, Venice and Istanbul.

I’ve been a bit too harsh, perhaps, but the hypocrisy of planting a Bond movie atop Dante’s grave, rankled my sensibility. Mappa dell’Inferno and Goldfinger don’t belong together.

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