As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

The Librarian

Posted by Hedwig on April 14, 2008

The battle over who’s going to get to review the new Indiana Jones sequel for filmtotaal is already raging, even if no press screening dates have been announced yet. I’m keeping out of it. I don’t want to see Indiana Jones at a press screening by myself, even if it’s bound to be full of illegally brought guests. I want to see with Indy 4 with a group of friends, of specific friends, in a crowded theatre on opening night, where we’ll hopefully get to mock it and thrill at it in equal measures.

The thing is, Indiana Jones was always a throwback with a wink, inviting you to laugh at it a little, winking at you, while at the same time offering a bigger, better version of the action scenes and heroic acts seen in old adventure serials. The enormous boulder rolling towards the hero, the macho posing: it’s not just a cliché because of Indy, it was a cliché BEFORE Indy. Indiana Jones is a mockery cum homage of the serials George Lucas and Steven Spielberg loved when they were little boys, and that’s part of what makes those movies so enjoyable.

So what happens if you double that, and pay a slighting mocking homage to Indiana Jones, without the budget, the filmmaking skills of Spielberg and, well, Harrison Ford?

You get the Librarian.

And you know what? It’s actually kinda fun. Oh, it’s lame, no doubt about it. It’s endlessly mockable, and it doesn’t have the redeeming high production values. But just watching how far it will go, how silly it will get, and how it subverts some of the stock elements by replacing them by modern substitutes, is quite entertaining. And there’s enough of a knowing wink that you can justify your enjoyment as being (mostly) ironic.

But you might not be familiar with this phenomenon. After all, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (and its sequel the Return to King Solomon’s Mines) were made for TV and I don’t think they have much of a cult following, or much of a following at all. So, as an exception, let me summarize.

Noah Wyle plays Flynn, is a thirtysomething who loves studying. In fact, that’s all he does, and he’s accumulated 22 degrees over the years. How he manages to pay for all this is left a mystery. Obviously, he still lives with his mom, is “between girlfriends”, and is a show-off who’s pretty much hated by his fellow student. When a teacher kicks him out to go see the world, he finds a mysterious invitation (the letters appear as if by magic) to apply for the prestigious position of “Librarian” at the “Metropolitan Public Library”.

Of course, he gets the position, through some old-fashioned Sherlock Holmesy observation skills (he tells a woman she’s been divorced about 3 months and has three cats. As she’s played by Jane Curtin, this hardly requires detective skills). The Library turns out to be a treasury for mysterious artefacts: the ark of the covenant (Flynn tries to touch it, pretty stupid for an educated guy), Pandora’s box (which he of course tries to open), Excalibur (which…well, you get the idea), and a piece of the Spear of Destiny. For the less educated viewer, of course, an explanation is on hand for each of those items.

The Spear gets stolen, by a nefarious organization with Asian henchmen, and as a result, Flynn is sent to find the two other pieces. Is their location described in a book using cryptic clues? It is. Does he get a knock-out blond for an accomplice who, in a predictable reversion of gender roles, turns out to be sent to protect him? Indeed. And is the retrieval of the other pieces a rather stupid idea, because stealing them from a hapless librarian is much, much easier than finding them yourself, and do the members of the evil serpent gang wait for our heroes just outside the enormous Mayan temple everyone had, up until now, overlooked? Why, of course.

It’s all very silly, and while I provided a steady stream of snarky commentary, I loved it. It’s not something to watch twice. It might not even be something to watch once. I just hope that it won’t turn out to have been more fun than the fourth film featuring Ford holding a whip.

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One Response to “The Librarian”

  1. Lanchka said

    OK, I just can’t stand it that no one has yet commented on The Librarian. I love this movie’s sheer silliness, the too-obvious spoofs, the way that it careens from implausibility to implausibility (I still can’t figure out how the ancient Mayans knew about waltz time). But, when it comes down to it, I just wanna be Flynn. I could do without being hunted by a motley crew of murderous Asians, of course – but nothing would beat the realization that yesssss, with my useless degree I could actually save the world.

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