Along Came a Spider (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Along Came a Spider can be a really dumb movie. You'll probably shout "no way" at it about five times.

Now I suppose you can forgive that in a vampire movie. They're supposed to be dumb, and vampires themselves exist outside the natural laws of the universe, so there's really no need for vampire mythology to make sense. If you're willing to believe that vampires exist in the first place, you're pretty much ready to believe any kind of dumb crap the author makes up. They're really Judas. They're from outer space. Whatever.

On the other hand, if you're writing a detective thriller, dumbness can be a real liability. Here's Morgan Freeman wandering around as the world's smartest detective, and in the very first scene of the movie, with his partner in a car hanging from a dam, with no roof on the car and his partner clearly in view a few feet away, fully conscious, what does he do - he tries to throw down a line to rope the car back in.

I saw this and laughed out loud, because it is the exact same scene as in Blazing Saddles when the rednecks throw out a line to save the railroad pushcart while letting the two black guys sink into the quicksand.

Jeez, captain, we damn near lost a $60,000 convertible.

Hey, Morgan, forget about the friggin' car - save your partner! If they had simply thrown that same line down to the woman instead of trying to get the car, she would easily have been pulled to safety! Since Freeman is black, do you think it was revenge for the pushcart thing? 


But worse than that is how she got there in the first place. She's a cop, sitting in the passenger seat while a homicidal maniac is driving. He's driving about a zillion MPH to evade a helicopter. So what does she do? Why she pulls a gun on him, of course. What? He's holding the wheel, going about 120, and she's gonna shoot him? Yeah, right. Kind of an empty threat, don't you think? The killer is insane, not stupid. Now I ask you - why does she do that? If she doesn't pull out her gun and he escapes from the helicopter, so what? She's still got the gun, and he doesn't know that, so she can corner him when he stops. But if she does shoot him, they're both going to die, aren't they, so why is that gun out? That was suicidal on her part. Of course, she does shoot him, and they both die. The shooting was accidental, but she wouldn't have been in that predicament if her damn gun had stayed hidden until the time was right.

Of course, despite her silly move, she would have survived, if only Freeman hadn't decided to save the pushcart.

So here we have two ludicrous developments, and the plot hasn't even begun yet! That all happened during the opening credits, and I was already pissed off.

Well, it turns out that the evil kidnapper who is in the REAL plot decides that he wants Morgan Freeman out of his semi-retirement and on his case. He calls Morgan at home. He sends him candygrams (no more Blazing Saddles references, I promise). Morgan is on his Christmas Card list. Their kids have been united in arranged marriages. Obviously, the crazed master criminal is in need of a nemesis, and needs to court the famous Morgan Freeman. I could have told you that. What good is being The Red Skull if you're just bumping off gas stations? Who would care about Dr. Doom or Lex Luthor if they were shoplifting from Circle K stores? If you want to be a master criminal, you have to do something high profile, and you have to have a superhero swear to bring you to justice. If you have those two things, all you need is diabolical laughter and a spiffy cape, and you're on your way.

My favorite moment: Freeman gets into the evil guy's apartment, and finds that his files are password-protected. He thinks back to a conversation he had with Dr Evil, remembers one phrase, types that in, and BINGO, that's the password. Not only that, but it was a phrase containing the word "and", but Freeman typed in an ampersand instead and got it on the first try.

As the TV preachers say, "We have a miracle here today".

Of course, they have some damned interesting computers in this film. Freeman goes to a web site which appears to have a .jpg of Lindbergh (kidnapping symbol, get it?). Turns out it isn't a .jpg, but a web cam of an apartment, that just happens to be focused on a poster of Lindbergh. So Freeman sits down at the computer, figures out the webcam, and is soon panning around the room, and zooming in with about 100,000 magnification. For example, he pans around until he finds a prescription medicine bottle, then zooms in to see the name of the patient. At one point he points the camera at the outside window and zooms in on the rings of Saturn. That is one amazing webcam. I'm surprised that Freeman couldn't find the "time" control to zoom it into the future and see whether he solved the crime.

Oh, yeah, I hope you like the cinema cliché where the bad guy sends the hero from phone booth to phone booth with barely enough time to spare, all of it with the future of the world depending on the hero's ability to pick up that next call in time, and not to change to the wrong long distance plan.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • Making-of featurette

Anyway, the movie just isn't worth your time, despite a big budget, a respectable box office, and some competent performers. There are altogether too many unbelievable elements that will just tick you off when they happen, although because of the nature of the plot, just about anything I say while spoil it too much, so I better sign off on the plot twists.

I guess the stronger point is that I didn't really think the plot twists were the film's great weakness. It seems to me that the sheer boredom of the plot was a greater flaw. 

Can you sue a studio for false advertising if a "thriller" isn't thrilling?

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Apollo 58/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 29% positive reviews, only 18% from the big guns

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2/10, Apollo Users 76/100. 
  • With their dollars ... it did very well this summer, with $74 million domestic gross on about 2500 screens, compared to a $28 million budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I say C-. Good production values, Morgan Freeman, zero script.

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