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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.98%
Worth A Look: 2.33%
Average: 20.93%
Pretty Bad43.02%
Total Crap: 26.74%

6 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Along Came a Spider
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by Erik Childress

"'Spider' Unweaves In The Third Act"
2 stars

Along Came a Spider is a prequel to the 1997 thriller Kiss the Girls, although those who never read the book would have no idea from the movie. It again stars Morgan Freeman as author James Patterson’s hero, Detective Alex Cross. It again has him playing mind games with the kind of elusive criminal who doesn’t seem so elusive when he’s willing to play games with the cops. It again has a third act twist that, for my dollar, sinks the entire story. Where Kiss the Girls fell apart in the last ten minutes, Along Came a Spider unweaves in the entire third act.

The debate of this film as a prequel is non-existent except that it was originally published before Kiss the Girls back in 1993. It’s frankly just another chapter for an adventurous protagonist, a la James Bond or Jack Ryan, without any regard for previous (or forthcoming) adventures. This time, Alex Cross loses his partner in yet another of those opening thrill sequences that have nothing to do with the rest of the film other than to supply the hero with a reason to get back on the horse and bond with a new associate.

She is Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flanagan (Monica Potter) whose current assignment (for the past three years) has been to guard the daughter of Senator Hank Rose (Michael Moriarty) and his wife, Lauren (Penelope Ann Miller). But when Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott) stages a brilliantly executed kidnapping of young Megan (Mika Boorem) at school under the nose of Flanagan, he starts calling Cross and leaving things in his mailbox to draw him into the plot.

One of these days, some screenwriter is going to parody a mindgame thriller between a cop and a criminal and use the names of Tom, Mickey, Sylvester or Jerry. The standard cat-and-mouse play is the common trap that writers cage their criminal masterminds with. If they would just stop playing with the authorities like a game of Stratego, they’d probably get away with it. These days it’s not enough that the villain gets the cheese, but they want their picture taken with their head underneath the metal bar. That’s right it’s the fame game again in a year that’s already brought us 15 Minutes and Series 7.

The investigation and subsequent routines of ransom drops and the outwitting abductee are handled with skill and well paced by director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, The Edge). Morgan Freeman is terrific as always and is able to sell the relationship with the confidence-doubting Jezzie and many of the cliches of a police procedural from failed traces to saying the word “methodical” (which, I think, is the third time Freeman has had to say that word after “Seven” and “Kiss the Girls”.)
But Monica Potter continues to fall into the “good thing she’s pretty” category, displaying a stiffness that has become commonplace in each role she steps into. And that’s especially sad for someone coming primarily from romantic comedies, a genre that only calls for a certain warmth and likability. One of these days, someone will finally give her the role she was born to play as Julia Roberts’ sister, but until then, she’s nothing but another pretty face.

Those familiar with my writings and who know me personally, are aware of my Holmes-like (Sherlock, not John) ability to sniff out a mystery. Along Came a Spider seems to have everything out in the open, but every movie these days needs to have a Keyser Soze, and a savvy audience will recognize the influence of a third party early on even before Cross does. It’s telegraphed thoroughly (not just the influence, but the identity) and its finally revealed in a method taken exactly from Ron Howard’s Ransom, a far superior kidnapping thriller. Plus, I always find it disconcerting to be way ahead of the master detective on the case, especially when the big clues all seem to fall in his lap in the last 20 minutes, just like in Kiss the Girls.

Screenwriter Marc Moss does just that though, taking the audience for idiots. Characters explain things ad nauseum after its been clearly (and visually) explained to us. If you’re trying to make an intelligent adult thriller, then why take the audience for mummified fools who you think can’t make heads or tails of what’s going on or don’t recognize a third act twist coming even when quote whore critics feel obliged to tell them about it in the ads.

Along Came a Spider is passable entertainment at best. It’s a lively paced, decent enough distraction with some good acting (particularly Freeman and Wincott) and some bad (Potter). Many of the big-name supporting characters (with the exception of Dylan Baker) only get a seemingly inconsequential scene or two and with only a handful of characters to choose from to begin with, it makes it reasonably easier to point out the culprit. Some additional red herrings, teasing us in the previews, have also been dropped to thin the field.

We’ve seen this all many times before (and better) and the story has nothing new to throw on the table except what it believes to be its shocking third act twists and turns. But if you’ve been in the game long enough and you know the poker faces from previous hands, you’re liable to call its bluff way before it lays down its cards. And its not a very big pot to begin with anyway.

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originally posted: 04/07/01 04:44:27
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell it sucks read the book instead 1 stars
10/21/12 Jeff Wilder Freeman's good as always. But the movie blows. 1 stars
7/26/09 the dork knight Single worst fucking movie I have ever seen. Saw the twist coming a mile away!! 1 stars
10/05/08 Lenny Zane Both Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter CAN be darned good. What a shame about theis drivel! 1 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
11/21/07 G. Webster another case of horrible screenwriting from a good book 3 stars
11/11/07 Jack Sommersby Simply dreadful stuff. 1 stars
7/01/07 johnnyfog If this isn't SHIT, then NOTHING is. 1 stars
5/15/07 Rob I still remember groaning in the theatre when Potter is revealed as the Bad Guy.. Horrible! 1 stars
1/31/07 Albert Stone The plot is riduclous, but the acting was good. CGI car crash was rubbish. 3 stars
6/11/06 Chris A decent movie although the book was better 3 stars
8/12/05 ES I know let's put a really crappy CGI car crash within the first five minutes of the film! 1 stars
8/09/05 seeda It's cool 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Not that bad 3 stars
2/27/05 Dr. Lecter a bunch of well-made, polished cliches 3 stars
5/25/04 Jenny The book would have made a much better movie. 1 stars
11/22/03 R.W. Welch A few good scenes but has sort of a mish-mash quality and Potter is miscast. 3 stars
11/08/03 The Velcro Warlock I liked Monica Potter, until this apparently ended her career. 1 stars
7/23/03 francis plot twists are standard now - no excitement left. Potter is leaden. 3 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Along came a . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . Ehem. . .WHA??? 2 stars
3/20/03 Wendy Jane Torrance Couldn't HEAD OVER HEELS have shown ANYBODY what Monica Potter was born to play? 1 stars
7/24/02 dzk AWESOME ! Wonderful ending ! Monica Potter is the best actress of our era ! Cheers !! 5 stars
7/08/02 Film Dude Ugh. It's sad seeing Morgan Freeman in this state. 2 stars
6/05/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi welllll.....the twist was surprising, but othawise......pppppfffffff 1 stars
5/24/02 Charles Tatum Freeman good, Potter needs to quit acting 2 stars
5/14/02 Danielle Ophelia Morgan Freeman slumming is a terrible thing to watch. Also, Monica Potter is a choad. 2 stars
3/29/02 Frank E. Loved it. Take us back to the 70's! for today's crowd (duh) That is new! 5 stars
2/24/02 Chris K. Tries to be like a Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci Italian giallo, but it just doesn't cut it. 3 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Freeman was great but he couldn't save this film. 2 stars
1/25/02 Wendy Jane Torrance Couldn't HEAD OVER HEELS have shown ANYBODY what Monica Potter was born to play? 1 stars
12/25/01 Leslie Suranyi Jr. Freeman does his best despite being mired in a hopeless plot. Don't watch this movie. 1 stars
12/07/01 Phil M. Afficianado Unbelievable, literally. Only because of Freeman is it watchable. Potter doesn't cut it.i 3 stars
11/25/01 Senor Pescolido Very very weak. Is it wrong to challenge an audience, instead of playing down to it? 1 stars
10/27/01 Monday Morning Morgan is good. Also wouldn't mind seeing Monica Potter nekkid; she sure can't act. 3 stars
9/28/01 Karabella This movie was so kickass! I would see it over and over again 5 stars
8/16/01 Belinda Morgan Freeman what were you thinking? This and Nurse Betty were shockers! 2 stars
8/10/01 kris Average 3 stars
6/18/01 Mary Morgan Freeman too good an actor to be so clueless in this film! 2 stars
6/07/01 Peter Brook doh. 2 stars
5/25/01 Matthew Bartley Whats the point of having a twist exactly the same as the first film? 2 stars
5/17/01 Layna I thought it was AWESOME!!! 5 stars
5/16/01 Rampage Freeman was good, this movie was total bullshit 2 stars
5/14/01 Thai Nguyen Nice twist 4 stars
5/13/01 Gary i actually had a good time 4 stars
5/02/01 BrainPan Want to see a good Morgan Freeman detective movie with lots of rain? Try SE7EN. 2 stars
4/29/01 bullit17 If you really want to enjoy "Along Came..." spend yout $8 on the book instead of the movie. 3 stars
4/26/01 Hobius The purest crap ever. 1 stars
4/23/01 jusDucky Freeman is so good, but Potter futher weakened the show. 2 stars
4/18/01 Ajay I'm too busy eyeing the door to care about the "surprise" ending. 1 stars
4/15/01 Roy Smith It's not a twist if you see the ending coming for 20 minutes away. 2 stars
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  06-Apr-2001 (R)


  16-Aug-2001 (M)

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