FROM JASON’S SUNDAY MORNING — It’s no secret that I love the odd crappy television movie. With nothing else to do, I tuned in early today to TNT for 2004’s The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, the first in a trilogy of cheap Indiana Jones knock-offs.
I say Indiana Jones because drama powerhouse Noah Wyle’s (sarcasm!) title character races against an evil cult to recover the mystical spear that supposedly pierced the side of Christ. In The Librarian, the spear gives its bearer unimaginable powers, and “Hitler had only one of the three pieces and it took the combined countries of the world to stop him” (paraphrased).
But while it aspires to Indy status, this made-for-television bad-ass is more like an inexperienced Sherlock Holmes who gets commissioned by the Men In Black to fight the villains from Crocodile Dundee II on behalf of Santa Claus.
A quick overview: Wyle is a 30-something way-overgrad student who’s amassed 22 collegiate degrees, including a handful of doctorates. When he’s forced to leave school, his great intellect, powers of observation and deduction land him a job as a librarian. He learns that his employers aren’t so much bookkeepers as they are the guardians of powerful and fantastic artifacts; they’re more or less those “top men” hired to be curators of the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
At first, Wyle is the reluctant and bumbling genius, but as he gets sucked into a circle of cultish intrigue, he starts to enjoy his role as a globetrotting adventurer.
Yeah, it’s that rough.
Do-nothing director Peter Winther gives us styrofoam and plastic sets. Bob Newhart as the M character looks bored and delivers his lines monotone. There’s a horrid computer-generated parachute, foggy CG junglescapes and temples, and airplane depressurization that doesn’t cause any turbulence, a criminal mastermind who faked his own death, and a romance between Wyle and his motorcycle-riding amazonian bodyguard, Nicole Noone (which allows Newhart to crack, “Trust Noone”).
The effects look worthy of an episode of Charmed, including a couple in the climax that look inspired by Tron. There’s even a moment where Noone pulls an obligatory Matrix jump five or so feet in the air. The scoundrels trying to steal the Spear of Destiny all predictably wear emo-altered black military garb and Neo sunglasses. You’ve got to wonder how hard-up for a paycheck were Newhart and Noah Wyle — though the later hasn’t done very much to earn his household name, other than his 249 episodes of ER.
Oh yeah — for all you Third Rock from the Sun fans out there, Jane Curtain also stars.
And if you want to hear grating dialog, click play:
It is seriously difficult to understand how The Librarian scored as high as 5.9 on the IMDB-o-meter. Maybe there are thousands out there who, along with me, are equally hypnotized by epically low-budget turd-fests.
Maybe that’s the power of Kelly Hu’s midriff, which is honestly what kept me tuned in all 120 minutes — that and the sadistic need to find out just how much further into underfunded straight-to-the-small-screen mediocrity the flick could fall.
Just to get all you Trekkies excited, guess who directed the 2006 follow-up, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines? None other than Jonathan “Two Takes” Frakes(he also has a small role).
Riker also returned this year to direct The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice (perhaps the most unfortunately named chalice ever), which is about vampires and stars Bruce Davison as Dracula.
I’m going to be totally honest: As horrible as was the first in the series, I totally intend to sit and watch the two sequels.