Review: "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear"
TNT Presentation, starring Noah Wyle, Sonya Walger, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Kelly Hu, and Kyle MacLachlan, airing December 2004.
Let me start off with one simple phrase: "Willing suspension of disbelief".
In case you missed it, TNT filmed a made-for-TV movie called "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear", which aired in December. Meet Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle), a mid-30s professional student with 22 degrees, no social skills, and no real-life experience. He is booted out of school mid-semester to "get some experience with the big bad world", and Flynn is forced to find a job. Harry-Potter-like, an invitation appears for him to interview for a position with the Metropolitan Public Library. Long scene cut short (apparently hundreds of others also got the invitation), he gets the job. His new boss, Judson (Bob Newhart), says "You are about to begin a wondrous adventure, and your life will never be the same. Welcome to the Library." I think that's true for all of us, although not in the same way it was for Flynn!
Unlike most libraries, this one has a secret underground repository for all the mystical, sacred and powerful items in the world, such as Pandora's Box, the Ark of the Covenant, and Excalibur. Secret bookcase doors and well-armed guards aren't enough to stop the bad guys from stealing the Spear of Destiny on Flynn's first day, and as The Librarian he is, of course, the only one in the world who can stop them. Thankfully, he is assigned a bodyguard by the name of Nicole Noone ("They told me to trust no one!") who sarcastically helps Flynn on his quest.
Kyle MacLachlan, as the bad guy, must have had a really bad few days; he overacts and chews the scenery like nothing I've seen in a while. Kelly Hu, as the lead villainess, is underused although the fight at the end between her and Flynn's bodyguard was fun.... "Get your own geek!" I have to admit, though, one of my favorite bits was when Judson lays waste to a large circle of bad guys, with the comment "I'm a librarian, too, you know". I loved seeing Newhart kicking butt!
With *very* broad nods to the Adventures of Indiana Jones, Relic Hunter, Tomb Raider, and other like stories, this was a fun and campy tale that made me laugh out loud several times. Admittedly, some of the laughing parts were due to the really bad special effects and some truly cheesy lines, but others were for some very funny lines and the look of total enthusiasm on Flynn's face as he discovers (and plays with) new things in the Library.
However... don't forget that first line, because a lot of it was needed. You really had to go into this with no expectations of anything resembling a genuine portrayal of librarianship. Most of Flynn's 22 degrees appear to be either linguistic, archaeological or astronomical - based on his response to his initial interview question, an MLS is not among them. ("Why do you think you could be the librarian?" "Because I've read a lot of books?" Sigh.) The library, although beautiful and obviously unchallenged by any budgetary crunches, also didn't seem to be challenged with a lot of patrons. However, Noah Wyle is far from the sterotypically-portrayed shushing librarian!
To quote Virginia Smith, a librarian in Kentucky, "In [my] opinion, it has all the makings of a modern-day adventure, a hero whose motivations are more benevolent than Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, a story that's more literate than the Indiana Jones trilogy and nearly as many exotic destinations as a James Bond flick." And as Flynn notes at the end of the movie, "Being a librarian is actually a pretty cool job!"
Bottom line: Interested in a fun, campy movie that celebrates knowledge and the use of it? Check this out. Looking for an accurate portrayal of librarianship? Stay far, far away.
ALA collected reviews from librarians around the country of the movie, and they can be found at the ALA web site. The law-lib list also had quite a few things to say about it, you can read their comments at the law-lib archive site. Many thanks to those who sent me comments and input for this review!