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Opie Gets Ugly

When the conglomerates behind the viciously anti-Catholic book "The DaVinci Code" were looking for a director, Newsweek reported Ron Howard had a secret weapon: his aw-shucks child-star Opie Taylor likeability. "Ron is not a polarizer," said one. "We all knew the book was quite controversial, and we were ready for that. But we didn't want to add to it."

In that same article in 2006, it became clear that Howard wasn't going to make the film less vicious (or less filled with historical lies and distortions) than the book. There would be "no placating. It would be ludicrous to take on this subject and try to take the edges off. We're doing this movie because we like the book." (Emphasis his.)

This is where the aw-shucks routine goes out the window. It's one thing to say you like a good mystery with historical overtones. It's another thing to say you like a fiction book that paints the Catholic Church as an evil nest of lying murderers conspiring to protect the lie that Jesus Christ is God.

Then consider that "DaVinci Code" author Dan Brown repeatedly has claimed that his wild-eyed conspiracy theories are true. The book even carried the statement that "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

Now "no-placating" Howard is back, pushing a new movie version of a Brown book called "Angels & Demons." In a nasty article on the Huffington Post website, Howard spat at William Donohue of the Catholic League: "I guess Mr. Donohue and I do have one thing in common: we both like to create fictional tales, as he has done with his silly and mean-spirited work of propaganda."

As the psychologists say, Ron Howard is projecting. That is a perfect summary of the Dan Brown novels: silly and mean-spirited works of propaganda.

Howard claims "neither I nor 'Angels & Demons' are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome."

That's not controversial. It's insane. It's a tactic, just like Howard's partner Brian Grazer reacted during the "DaVinci" publicity tour in 2006, when Katie Couric asked him how the group Opus Dei would respond to its portrayal. They were dishonestly and ridiculously painted as a murderous cult, but Grazer said with a straight face: "I think they'll be happy with the movie, ultimately."

Howard complained that the Catholic League "accuses us of lying when our movie trailer says the Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence the Illuminati centuries ago. It would be a lie if we had ever suggested our movie is anything other than a work of fiction."

Check the "we" and the "ever" in that sentence. Howard is easily exposed as dishonest by a sentence on Dan Brown's own website about the book: "It is historical fact that the Illuminati vowed vengeance against the Vatican in the 1600's. The early Illuminati – those of Galileo's day – were expelled from Rome by the Vatican and hunted mercilessly." (Emphasis mine.)

The trailer lies exactly like that. The announcer introduces the Tom Hanks character: "He exposed one of the greatest coverups in human history." A woman whispers "DaVinci!" Hanks explains: "The Illuminati were a secret society dedicated to scientific truth. The Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever." At the end of the trailer, Hanks proclaims: "This is it. This is the truth!"

So who is doing the lying, Opie?

Movie watchers are going to think large chunks of this story are actual human history, and the trailer has no disclaimer about how this scientist-murdering-church narrative is pure fantasy. The real Illuminati originated in Bavaria in 1776 (long after Galileo died) and fizzled out a decade later. The Catholic Church never murdered a single member of the Illuminati.

A Catholic blogger who calls himself the Curt Jester ably underlined how audacious and ridiculous Howard sounds. He satirically proclaimed his own film project: "I am producing a movie on Ron Howard's family. In the movie based on my research I say his father was a drug pusher, and his mother is a prostitute, and that Ron Howard engages in S&M....I will present the Howard family as something totally based on lies, and question whether his parents really were his parents in the first place." And "of course this is just a movie, so people should not be upset about my portrayal of the Howard family at all."

He then predicted the Howard family would enjoy it as an exciting mystery. Ron Howard should read this and understand exactly what his cinematic versions of Dan Brown hate-speeches feel like to Catholics.

PS: See Andrew Leigh at Big Hollywood, especially the part where Howard & Co. are trying to tamp down any offense taken by Muslims.