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Mad Dog Movie Masters say--kill The Pope

THE POPE MUST DIE

Directed by Peter Richardson.

Written by Peter Richardson

and Pete Richens.

Starring Robbie Coltrane

and Beverly D'Angelo.

Now playing at the Loews Charles.

By BRIAN ROSE

and ROY CANTU

IN OUR CONSTANT QUEST FOR THE Lord's forgiveness, the Mad Dog Movie Masters chose to renew our faith with The Pope Must Die. But we must confess -- after this movie, we tattooed pentagrams on our heads and made reservations in Hell. Tempted by the controversial title, we were lured unsuspectingly into Satan's very den. Needless to say, the movie was a total waste of time.

The Mad Dog Movie Masters were pumped as we cruised into the theater last week with Gatorade in one hand and French loaf in the other. We had 250 seats all to ourselves.

The Pope Must Die opens as our dear Pontiff lays on his death bed, surrounded by his cardinals. Cut to a scene of Father Albinizi (Robbie Coltrane), a very large man of the cloth, singing to children in a run-down orphanage on an Italian hillside. As all this is going on, the Vatican's corrupt treasurer, Cardinal Rocco (Alex Rocco), arranges to place a Pope in power in order to assist the illegal financial transactions of the Vatican Bank and Vittorio Corelli (Herbert Lom), an arms dealer and all-around bad dude. Unfortunately for them, a mix-up occurs, and the cardinals select the wrong pope. And who turns out to be the next Pope? Our man Albinizi, the orphan entertainer. The plot twists really caught us off guard.

When Albinizi, now Pope David I, finally uncovers Rocco's sinister plan, he begins a noble and heart-warming cleansing of the Vatican's bad seeds. But wait -- the bad guys strike back, and the Pope is kicked out of office when an enormous sex scandal is uncovered. The woman involved: none other than Veronica Dante, played by Beverly D'Angelo.

Guess what? Everyone's related. Rocco has a cute daughter, Luccia (Khedija Sassi), who stole Roy's heart with her rendition of "Daddy, I'm tired. I think I'm going to take a nap." Cut straight to her in a full metal stud jacket playing footsie with Gene Simmons' proteg'e, Joe Don Dante (Balthazar Getty), who just happens to be Veronica's and the Pope's love child. Catch all that? We almost died laughing as all this unfolded before our eyes.

Not.

Director Peter Richardson must take his audience for a bunch of idiots and certainly not true Mad Dogs, for anyone with a brain the size of one of our Milk Duds would surely be insulted by this movie's flailing attempts at humor. As for the acting, Coltrane's compassion for the orphans is unconvincing, and his comedy lacks consistency. He doesn't impress either one of us as anything more than a John Goodman wanna-be. At times, he appears to think that he is King Ralph, but in any event, fails miserably at every turn. Coltrane's attempts at drama and tenderness left us using his head for a bull's eye as we tossed French bread at the movie screen.

Alex Rocco succeeds in delivering the mortal blow to this cancerous animal of a movie. Agreed, he has two strikes against him -- first by being in this film, and then by taking on such a pitiful role -- but this boy's lack of talent sends him straight to the dugout. Rocco's paint-by-numbers acting is enough to turn inspirational pep talks into corny clich'es. As with Coltrane, Rocco's sense of comedy quickly loses focus, and his performance yields few, if any, laughs. We both agreed that Rocco was branded at birth to pollute the wide screen in every B-movie ever created.

The Mad Dog Movie Masters rate Beverly D'Angelo's attempt at portraying the Pope's long-lost mistress as mediocre at best. If the writers had tried even a little, they could have elevated this role into something genuinely funny. However, D'Angelo appears to have walked onto the set of The Pope Must Die only to pay next month's rent.

As for Richardson's direction, stock footage of people cheering the Pope does not get the Mad Dogs' blood pumping, nor does a special effects budget consisting of epoxy and ketchup. Nothing revolutionary here.

Yes, it's true, The Pope Must Die must die. This flick is so littered with B-actors from the cast of afternoon sitcoms that it must have been designed with the video store in mind. In fact, the Mad Dog Movie Masters want to put this puppy to sleep with a pitiful one out of four Mad Dogs. But readers, do not despair, for the Mad Dog Movie Masters will be back with an angry fury -- our next movie is sure not to disappoint.