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Posted at 5:59 AM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 09:00:39-04

Phil Villarreal's novel, Zeta Male, is available at Amazon.

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - When Tom Hanks and Ron Howard get together to crank out the movie adaptation of a Dan Brown tome, there is almost no way things can go wrong.

With "Inferno," though, the reliable ingredients fail to ignite.

The formula is down pat at this point. Hanks, as Langdon, is called away from humdrum academia after someone with dark, mysterious knowledge dies. Then he races around with an unnaturally attractive brunette half his age on a globe-trotting, puzzle-solving scavenger that ends with him solving the mystery just when things seem hopeless.

"Inferno" nails the hopelessness aspect, if little else.

Part of the problem is that Brown's source material doesn't deliver the requisite goods. Much of the appeal of his usually well-researched writing springs from obscure historical connections he unearths and slips into the plot. There's little of that this time, with much of the movie requiring Langdon to race around like a dubious action hero. He dodges bullets, takes down enemies at hand-to-hand combat and makes acrobatic escapes. "Inferno" asks a nerdy professor to become Jason Bourne, and the result is less than convincing.

This time out, a billionaire madman who thinks he can save the world from overpopulation has concocted a virus that will cut the population in half. He is intent on having his plan proceed in the event of his death, so he hides coded messages in various Dante-themed artwork in European museums in an elaborate bread crumb trail to help one of his followers follow through the deed should he, say, plunge to his death after being chased by World Health Officials in the opening sequence.

I guess billionaire madmen don't consider something simpler like, say, leaving a Snapchat telling his followers how to unleash the doomsday virus.

We catch up with Langdon midway through his quest to stop the virus, and things aren't going so well. He wakes up with amnesia in a hospital bed, his bloody clothes clumped together in a bloody bag and a bullet wound on his scalp. Bad guys come-a-shootin', so he rolls out of bed and is off to the races with the unnaturally attractive brunette, half-his-age doctor treating him (Felicity Jones) at his side.

Usually, Langdon needs the brunette to arch his eyebrows and make savvy historical insights that solve the puzzle that opens up the path to the next puzzle as she blushes, longing for her end-credits kiss and cuddle with him. Things don't quite pan out that way this time. The big twist just leads to eye rolls, head shakes and facepalms.

As the movie plods on, you start to envy Langdon -- not for his intellect, penchant for adventure or uncanny ability to team up with unnaturally half-his-age brunettes, but for his amnesia. "Inferno" is best off forgotten.

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.