Picks and Pans Review: Along Came a Spider
Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Penelope Ann Miller
The young daughter of a senator has been kidnapped from her elite private school in Washington, D.C. The kidnapper (Wincott), a publicity-seeking psycho who has spent years furtively planning his crime, deposits one of the girl's shoes in the mailbox of Alex Cross (Freeman), a top detective on the D.C. police force who is also a psychologist and bestselling author of books exploring the criminal mind. Does Cross know, asks the child's tearful mother (Miller), why the kidnapper chose to contact him?
"No, ma'am," he tells her, adding with quiet determination, "Not yet."
As Cross solves the "yet" in Along Came a Spider, a perfunctory thriller boasting a couple of screechingly sharp plot turns, he faces a frustratingly wily opponent who is often a step ahead of him—though not always of the audience. Spider is Freeman's second outing as Cross, following 1997's excessively lurid Kiss the Girls. (Both movies are based on bestselling novels by James Patterson.) While it is always a pleasure to watch this accomplished actor, whose natural gravitas perfectly meshes with that of the cerebral cop, Freeman doesn't have much to do here besides alternate between looks of deep concern and profound thought and race around Washington as if he were training for the 100-meter dash in the Senior Olympics.
The problem with Spider, as directed by Lee Tamahori (The Edge), is that it's heavy on plot (yet riddled with plot holes) and light on character development. The kidnapper, the female Secret Service agent (Potter) who teams up with Cross, the worried parents of the abducted child and even Cross himself are all as sketchily drawn as a preschooler's crayoned stick figures. Take, for example, an early scene in which Cross is seen at home with a woman who lovingly urges him to stop moping over a botched sting operation: It's unclear whether she's his wife, girlfriend or daughter, and we never see her or hear about her again. Potter, though flintier here than in previous roles, is merely adequate. (R)
Bottom Line: Fails to weave an enticing web
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