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Along Came A Spider

review by Ren C.


Rated R

Studio: Paramount

Running Time: 103 minutes

Starring Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter

Screenplay by Marc Moss
Based on the novel by James Patterson

Directed by Lee Tamahori

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital English 5.1, French Dolby Surround, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Scene Selection

Released: September 25th, 2001

Alex Cross is back and this time he's...well, he's doing a lot of the same things that he did in "Kiss The Girls". In one sentence, that is the fundamental problem with "Along Came A Spider". The movie isn't actively bad, it just suffers from an overall sense of sameness. Not just to it's predecessor, but also to other movies in the action-adventure-detective genre.

The movie centers on the kidnapping of a senator's daughter from a very affluent school that specializes in the children of diplomats and politicians. The kidnapper, Gary Soneji, a teacher who has been plotting the crime for years, has a strange fixation on the Charles Lindbergh case. This case came to be known as "the crime of the century" and Soneji wants to not only recreate it, but top it. The question is, how does he plan to do it?

Soneji, almost immediately after the kidnapping, gets in touch with Detective Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), who has been in mourning for his partner, who was lost in a job gone wrong. Cross immediately is thrust into the case when he finds the kidnapped girl's shoe in his mailbox. This brings him into contact with the FBI, as well as the Secret Service agent assigned to the case, Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), who was largely responsible for the girl being kidnapped.

Cross and Flannigan now have to work together to uncover the clues that will lead them to Soneji...and hopefully to the senator's daughter before it is too late.

While the plot may sound easy to follow, it actually has a number of very unusual twists and turns. These lead to another of my major problems with the movie, namely, that many of the solutions seem too convenient. There are several scenes in the movie where a problem that should take days or weeks of movie time to solve is solved in minutes. Also, in addition to "Kiss the Girls", there are scenes within the movie that seem strangely reminiscent of "The Fugitive" and "Die Hard: With a Vengeance".

There is a fairly small ensemble cast that is focused on throughout the movie, and each actor does a very good job with their role, especially the always-excellent Dylan Baker. One of the best aspects of Alex Cross' character is the relatively short amount of time that we see him on screen. The screenwriters and director rightly realized that Cross is not the main focus of the story, and reflect this accordingly.

Overall, despite all the faults that I have found with it, this is actually a very good suspense movie, as I found myself startled in some fairly unusual places. It may be unfair to compare it to "Kiss the Girls", but as with any sequel, that is the risk that the creative team takes. In this case, the movie makes a valiant effort but falls slightly short, both as a sequel, and in terms of a plausible plot.

As with any recent release, I have a higher standard for grading the transfer. Paramount has not disappointed me. Quite frankly, I couldn't find anything wrong here. There was absolutely no grain evident on the anamorphic transfer. Black levels were very deep and rich, and colors bright and vibrant. Even sky and water scenes, where many movies show multiple flaws, were crisp and clear. Overall, this is a very impressive transfer, almost to the point of reference quality.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix also holds up very well. Dialogue is distributed well in situations where characters are far apart, with little dropout. Sounds are crisp and clear, and ambient sounds are never overwhelming. Bass is also well used, as while this is not an intensely action-driven movie, those scenes that are action-driven benefit greatly from bass. Also included is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track, along with a French 2.0 track.

Out of all the major studios, Paramount still lags far behind in terms of features on both new and catalog releases. The extent of the features here are a twelve minute "making-of" Featurette that plays like an extended trailer, and the actual Theatrical Trailer. The featurette uses maybe one of the twelve minutes for behind-the-scenes footage, with the rest devoted to on-set interviews and movie footage. Anything else here would have been greatly appreciated.

The movie will never go down as a classic, but is definitely good for entertainment value. The video and audio are first-rate, but the features are deplorable, especially for a title that did relatively well at the box office. Also, considering this is a Paramount release, the price is a little steep at thirty dollars. Because of this, I'm giving this a recommendation to rent first.

(3/5 - NOT included in final score)




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