Checking Out Noah Wyle’s Librarian
I forgot how darn cute Noah Wyle is after his poor little rich boy Dr. John Carter got so annoying on ER — but then, everyone got so annoying on ER that I had to give it up. But now I’m reminded how darn cute he is by his totally charming Dr. Flynn Carson … not a medical doctor but a professional geek and know-it-all in the made-for-TV Librarian movies, the second of which, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, debuts on TNT this Sunday night, December 3.
I’d never seen the first film, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, until just this week. That first movie had, frankly, looked pretty dumb, as far as I could see, so I gave it a miss back in 2004. But when the press kit arrived from TNT with a preview DVD of the new film and Wyle (Enough, Donnie Darko) looking so adorably Indiana Jones-ish, in a pleasantly nerdy way, on the cover of the packet, I thought: Why not give it a try? So I Netflixed the first film (buy at Amazon), and checked it out, and what a hoot. Flynn is, at 30something, a perpetual student with 22 degrees and a mom (Olympia Dukakis: The Great New Wonderful) who despairs of him ever finding a girlfriend. But when he gets kicked out of school by a professor who’s had it up to here with him, Flynn lucks into a job with “the Library,” an amazing repository of secret powerful artifacts, like Excalibur and Pandora’s Box and, oh yeah, the Ark of the Covenant. (The blatant invocation of Raiders of the Lost Ark somehow defuses all possible complaints that the film is stealing Indy’s thunder, even though it is.) There are, naturally, evil societies out to grab those powerful toys for their own use, and it’s up to Flynn to stop them. Which he does, with the help of a kick-ass girl bodyguard, with whom he does eventually things that make Mom happy (and creep us out a little once we think about his mom — ewww — thinking about what he’s doing with the kick-ass girl bodyguard).
It’s all totally lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and never dares to be serious about anything, which is refreshing. And if Return to King Solomon’s Mines (out on DVD 12.19; preorder at Amazon) disappoints just a tad, it’s in its attempts to be serious, just a little, when it injects some sentimentality about Flynn’s family: he barely remembers his dad, it seems, and when Mom gives him an old family heirloom that had been his father’s … well, the heirloom turns out to be a lot older than Flynn thought, and Dad turns out to have been a lot more interesting than the dress salesman Mom thought he was, and Flynn ends up with a bit more heartache than we really need to see in this kind of movie.
But only a bit more. Though some of the FX are TV-cheap-‘n’-cheesy in places, this even more ambitious a film for the small screen that the first one was, what with all the globe-hopping and invocation of ancient rites and lost civilizations. And Mines gets even more, and more effective, mileage out of Flynn’s sweet — and sometimes inadvertent — heroism, and out of the role-reversal of hero and heroine. This time out, it’s Gabrielle Anwar’s archaeologist, who’s an even bigger know-it-all with even more degrees than Flynn, which puts him on the defensive in a way that he didn’t have to be on in the first film — he knew couldn’t compete physically with the kick-ass girl bodyguard, so he didn’t really try. But here, now? Being shown up by someone with four PhDs has gotta sting.
The Librarian is fun stuff. If we’re to be kept waiting yet more years for the return of Indiana Jones, Flynn Carson will do nicely in the meantime.