Along Came a Spider

It seems that Morgan Freeman plays the same character in every movie he does. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since he does it so well. Freeman (Under Suspicion, Nurse Betty) always has a calm, laid back demeanor that hides the intelligence and power actually inside the mind of his character. Although he seems quiet, his characters carry about them certain power that forces people to pay attention to him and fear him. He may be over 60, but still looks like he can kick butt. His acting can be great, but the movie may not be, as in the case of Along Came A Spider. Freeman reprises the role of novelist James Patterson's forensic pathologist Alex Cross in this prequel to Kiss the Girls. This time, he partners with Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter, Head Over Heels, Patch Adams) in a plot that often defies logic.

There is really nothing new in Along Came A Spider. Even the ubiquitous plot twists feel strained and strangely familiar. Nothing is shocking, except for how some these things can happen in the real world. At one point, Cross comes up with the password for a computer. His method is so unbelievable and hokey that it conjures up images of another similar situation, with Arnold Schwarzenegger finding an identity in End of Days. Flannigan is a Secret Service agent stationed at a private school. Why she is even there is never explained. She is protecting among others the children of Senators and foreign diplomats, which Secret Service agents don't do. Oh well. The kidnapping of Megan Rose (Mika Boorem, Mighty Joe Young, Jack Frost), a Senator's daughter by one of her teachers jumpstarts the plot. Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott, Before Night Falls, Gunshy), the kidnapper, contacts Cross and dares him to find him. Cross accepts, and picks a newly disgraced Flannigan as his partner. Cross is recovering from the death of his partner. She died eight months ago in a sting set up by him, and he feels responsible. Regardless of what they say in the movie, this really has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Soneji planned his crime for two years, appearing every day in prosthetics and a fat suit to hide his true identity. This prompts Cross to compare him to a spider; careful and meticulous in its actions (and hey, the title!).

There are mildly suspenseful moments in Marc Moss' (Hindenburg) script but nothing shocking or surprising, mainly because everything feels the same. Take a wise old cop, pair him with a young unsure cop, and let them loose. In a newer variant, take an older male cop and pair him with a hot, younger female cop. In other words, why watch this movie when you already saw ten others like it before? There is not enough in the any of the characters to care for them, and to root for them to win. Cross and Flannigan are both distant and hollow. Soneji's motivations make no sense. He draws many allusions to the Lindbergh kidnapping, and that's about it. The script has him set up elaborate clues for Cross that border on the ridiculous. It's not painful watching Along Came A Spider, but it is not exciting. Director Lee Tamahori (The Edge, Mulholland Falls) feels like he is merely going through the motions before revealing the killer at the end. At one point, Tamahori has Freeman running around Washington DC on orders from Soneji, trying to pay a ransom for Megan (Run, Morgan, Run?). It looks nice on screen, but has no real substance behind it.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for violence and language.

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