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Along Came A Spider

Starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Wincott, Monica Potter, Michael Moriarty and Penelope Ann Miller
Screenplay by Marc Moss
adapting the novel by James Patterson
Directed by Lee Tamahori

IN SHORT: Popcorn flick. You decide where to get popped. [Rated R for violence and language. 103 minutes]

Even if the effects are an obvious optical effect, the kick off to Along Came A Spider is akin to a rocket launch. A police sting is in progress, seeking out a psycho sex killer. Within ten minutes a couple of people are dead and a police career is on the back burner. It's a real good start to this "prequel" to the very successful Kiss The Girls, which introduced Morgan Freeman and police profiler Dr. Alex Cross. Ignore the fact that the technology you see in the film post dates the last one, making the "prequel" label moot.

Eight months after those events, Dr. Cross is happily off the force, building a fleet of miniature model ships. He doesn't miss the job. He doesn't pay attention to the television reports about the kidnapping of Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), daughter of Senator Hank Rose (Michael Moriarty) and his wife, Lauren (Penelope Ann Miller). But when the phone rings, and an electronically altered voice tells him that there is a "present" in his mailbox, Cross is drawn into the case.

The Feds don't appreciate his involvement, at first, teaming the profiler with Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), the Secret Service Agent in charge of security at the private school Megan attended, hereafter "she who dropped the ball." Flannigan has been booted to left field by superior Oliver MacArthur (Dylan Baker) but Cross knows that she has two years experience observing both the kidnaper and kidnapee. Observation is an important part of the profiler process, so Flannigan is back in the midst of battle, seeking out the kidnaper Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), a teacher at the school. Soneji, for reasons unknown, seems to be obsessed with the real life story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, which establishes the man's psycho credentials and gives an edge to the story (since the Lindbergh baby died).

It's a dull edge, unfortunately. Along Came A Spider is packed with everything that is expected in a cop mystery: Escape attempts --Megan is a very smart kid -- and hostage in peril; frantic parents; occasional violence; a couple of chases; a ransom demand; a lot of twists and turns in the plot and in the motivations of the ultimate villain. Everything on the checklist is there. But a good mystery makes you pay very close attention to events, as opposed to the standard "popcorn" flick where you can rest back and enjoy the action and let the characters explain their thinking to you. Dr. Cross is, by definition, incredibly intelligent. Most of the time, there is enough evidence present that he can explain his thought processes to you. But, as you near the end, the man outthinks a computer and we didn't buy that at all. Then again, we started to lose interest in the film much earlier.

It happens when films are adapted from books. Some things get left out. Some clues seem to pop up too easily. If you're paying close attention, everything piles up until coincidences push the movie into the realm of dumb. Of course, our job is to pay very close attention to everything on screen. We miss the intensity in the eyes of actor Morgan Freeman that was present the last time out. We didn't see the final twist coming and, were we just shoveling popcorn into our gullet, the various chase scenes (including a good one on the streets of Washington DC) would have been enough to keep us happily occupied.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Along Came A Spider, he would have paid . . .


We're placing this somewhere between the wait for pay per view and see it in the theater "dateflick" level. Along Came A Spider is an OK popcorn flick and somewhere along the line, if you can get a cheaper ticket, you'll enjoy it more on the big screen.

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