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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

May 4, 2009 at 9:20 AM

Slogging through Dan Brown’s book, “Angels & Demons”

One of the treats of my job (other than meeting the occasional movie star and having the excuse to eat popcorn for every meal) is the reading. Not that I ever need an excuse to read (I just spent the entire weekend reading, and finished three books), but every couple of weeks or so, some movie comes along that’s based on a book. I try to read the book whenever possible, particularly if the book is at all well known; it’s part of the review, I think, to evaluate the adaptation, though the movie needs to stand alone.
Just in the past year or so, I’ve reviewed terrific movies based on books I’d thought would be impossible to adapt (“Atonement,” Revolutionary Road,”), disappointing movies based on good books (“Then She Found Me,” “Blindness“) , not-so-good books turned, not surprising, into not-so-good movies (“The Jane Austen Book Club” and — sorry, girls — “Twilight“) — and the ultimate treat, books I’d never heard of that turned out to be both wonderful reads and wonderful movies (“Lust, Caution,” “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” “Starting Out in the Evening,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly“).
Generally I try to read the book first; otherwise it’s too hard to separate the movie’s images from the author’s. But every now and then, some book just lands in my path like an anvil dropped from the skies. This month, that book is Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons” (which I keep accidentally calling “Angels & Insects” when I speak of it, perhaps unintentionally trying to turn it into a more interesting book — by A.S. Byatt — and movie). I read “The Da Vinci Code” a few years back and found it relatively enjoyable for the relentless forward pace of its plot, but “Angels & Demons” is just a chore. (I suspect I’m not alone in this. When I bought a copy at my neighborhood used-book store, the manager — who I know — looked at it, looked at me, and said, “Oh, Moira. You don’t really want to read this.”) I’m now maybe 30 pages in; I keep picking it up and putting it down. I know I need to read it; the movie’s screening is this week. But I may have met my match here.
Help me out — have any of you read this book? Does it get better? Does it, like some books, improve with a glass of wine maybe? And, while we’re talking adaptation, what’s your favorite great-book-turned-great-movie? For me it’s probably John Huston’s “The Dead,” but recently I think “Atonement” is pretty terrific.

Here’s Tom Hanks in “Angels & Demons.” The haircut’s better, anyway.
(Photo by Zade Rosenthal. Copyright 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.)

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