Directed by Lee Tamahori Cast: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Mika Boorem, Michael Wincott, Dylan Baker, Jay O. Sanders, Penelope Ann Miller, Billy Burke, Anton Yelchin. 2001 104 minutes Rated: (for violence and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 8, 2001.
A superior, loose sequel to 1997's lurid and silly "Kiss the Girls," "Along Came a Spider" is a competently made thriller--well acted, tautly directed, but with more than a few ludicrous twists and plot holes. The story this time around does not revolve around a serial killer, but a vicious kidnapper, which is an admittedly refreshing change of pace from what was originally expected, and what I am used to seeing in this genre. It is ultimately the film's tight pacing that saves the day, turning what could have been a tiresome retread into an enjoyable, if unexceptional, viewing experience.
Brilliant investigator Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), the one major returning character from "Kiss the Girls," has been having a rough personal time lately, unrequitedly guilt-ridden for not being able to save the life of his partner several months earlier. He is called back to work, however, when one Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), the 12-year-old daughter of a United States senator, is abducted by her teacher, Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), while at school. Helping and guiding Alex in his desperate search is Jezzie Flanagan (Monica Potter), a secret service agent who has worked at the exclusive private school for the last two years. If anyone can possibly know why Megan was kidnapped, it is Jezzie, who has grown to know and care about all of her charges.
"Along Came a Spider" is riddled with far-fetched ideas and sequences, including a mad chase through the streets and metro stations of Washington, D.C. without any accuracy in where each location is placed on a real map. There is also a laughable scene in which the FBI is able to conveniently search through the kidnapper's home using only a camera and a computer that is able to zoom in on every minute detail of the room. The movie is a little silly when you stop to think about it long enough, and yet, it works in spite of its flaws.
The screenplay, by Marc Moss (based on the novel by James Patterson), and direction, by Lee Tamahori (1997's "The Edge"), are certainly instrumental in making the picture's spare parts gel together into a satisfyingly cohesive whole, but it is Morgan Freeman who makes everything convincing. Freeman (2000's "Nurse Betty") is a class-act veteran, taking every character he plays so seriously that it would almost be impossible for him to turn in a bad performance. His Alex Cross is not developed much further than he was in "Kiss the Girls," but it is a smart, cunning character that you cannot help but follow.
Holding her own is Monica Potter (2001's "Head Over Heels"), a younger, blonder version of Julia Roberts, who is quickly becoming quite a stunning actress. Potter more than makes up for the absence of Ashley Judd (the heroine in the movie's predecessor), and genuinely is able to go through a spectrum of differing emotions, as she isn't sure how to react to her own failings as a guardian at the school.
Mika Boorem (2000's "The Patriot"), as Megan Rose, is perhaps the standout in the film. Megan may be a young child, but she is a clever, intelligent, and strong individual--quite a rare feat for such a small kidnap victim in the world of feature films. Boorem is not only likable, but believable, and her role is not an easy one, either.
From the opening credits, which ingeniously consist of the words being lowered by the strings of a spider web, to the stunning prologue that depicts a horrifying automobile accident which concludes over the side of a waterfall, to the unpredictable finale, "Along Came a Spider" is a good movie. Judging from how strongly I disliked "Kiss the Girls," it is probably better than it has any right to be. It isn't a great achievement, however. The climactic twist is undoubtedly surprising, but it also leaves several unanswered questions, and almost feels like a betrayal. You'll know what I mean when you see it. Suffice to say, amidst its downfalls, the ending is much like the entire movie in general: not completely agreeable, but nonetheless, it manages to somehow remain a strong entertainment.