problem here is twofold: Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code made $758 million worldwide, and the book’s author, Dan Brown, wrote a prequel. There was no avoiding Angels & Demons. And with a strike looming, Sony had no choice but to speed this unwanted film into production, even though it might break what remains of Ron Howard’s spirit.

I hate to beat up on Ron Howard. He gets trashed for being a hack, but, looking over his filmography, I see a lot of above-average films: Night Shift, Splash, Cocoon, Gung Ho, Parenthood, Apollo 13, Ransom, Cinderella Man… they’re not classics, but, damn it, they work on their own terms. I’d even throw down for Backdraft (if only for the Mikael Salomon-shot fires and Hans Zimmer’s score) and The Paper (a terrific Michael Keaton showcase with one or two great scenes). And I didn’t hate A Beautiful Mind.

But Howard’s for-hire propensity kills him. And while he’s hard at work on a relatively noble picture, Frost/Nixon (which is ridiculously overrated as both a play and screenplay), this willingness to get rich off of high-profile projects is going to make the next year of his life miserable: he’s got to deliver Angels & Demons by December 2008.

Frost/Nixon is also slated for a late ’08 release, but it’s a reasonably budgeted prestige flick; the real pressure is going to be getting Akiva Goldsman’s screenplay locked down before next week’s strike, and, then, finishing principal photography quickly enough to deliver a semi-digestible river of shit for fans of The Da Vinci Code. If I were Howard, I’d fake an illness or shoot myself in the ass.

I don’t know what Angels & Demons is about, and I don’t care; I’m never going to see it. But can you imagine wasting your creative energies (for close to nine months!) on a movie that has no chance of being any good? Stop prostituting your talent, Ron.