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The Pope Must Die (1991)

Film review: The Pope Must Die (1991), directed by Peter Richardson

The Pope dies and the cardinals assemble to elect a new one. It’s not going particularly well, until Cardinal Rocco (Alex Rocco) presents them with the Perfect Candidate. Albini is a man who has helped children in Africa and is an all around great guy, they should elect him. That Rocco is the pet of Mafia boss Corelli (Herbert Lom) pet and Albini would be a Mafia puppet is of course never mentioned …

However, as luck would have it, the secretary (Adrian Edmondson) charged with putting down the election result in writing is half deaf and struggles with his hearing aid at the time, and instead writes down a completely different name: Albinizi.

Albinizi (Robbie Coltrane) is a likable and honest man who gets in trouble with a Mother Superior (Annette Crosbie) for playing rock ‘n’ roll to orphaned kids. He’s not even a cardinal, so he’s sure in for a surprise when he finds out he’s been elected pope … especially when the Mafia want to rectify the election mistake.

Also features Balthazar Getty as rockstar Joe Don Dante, Beverly D’Angelo as his mother, and even Robert Stephens (father of actors Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin) is in it.

Shame it’s not a very good film.

The Pope Must Die (a.k.a. The Pope Must Diet in the US, despite Albinizi’s weight never being questioned in the film) isn’t all that funny, it’s certainly clutching at believability straws, and it doesn’t really gel. Sure, the fish out of water comedy from rock-loving Father Albinizi becoming the head of the Catholic church is amusing, but it never really goes beyond vaguely amusing. I’m missing chuckles and outright laughter.

The whole miscrediting of Albinizi’s character is based on events occurring prior to him taking his priestly vows, so I’m scratching my head wondering what the fuss is about. If you become a priest after you’ve lived a little, does that mean you can’t become a pope, or do you have to still be a virgin or something? (No need to inform me of real life papal election criteria, because I really couldn’t care less. What with not being a Catholic and all that.)

Bits of the film are sort of cute, Robbie Coltrane will always make me want to hug him (he’s Hagrid, after all!), and seeing Balthazar Getty as a spoiled rockstar was … different. The Pope Must Die was made 21 years ago now, so it’s a far cry from Brothers & Sisters, where he played Tommy Walker. His acting skills seem to have improved with time, though. Admittedly, not by as much as you would’ve hoped.

On the plus side, Adrian Edmondson is in this film. And his physical comedy is actually sort of funny. It’s a pity he doesn’t get to say much.

All in all, The Pope Must Die is a bland film that I will have forgotten by this time next year, had it not been for this written account of having actually seen it.

1.8 out of 5 nuns.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

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