I was asked by Larra Clark, Media Relations Manager for ALAâ€™s Public Information Office if I would consider writing a review of TNTâ€™s made-for-tv movie,â€œThe Librarian: Quest for the Spear.â€? I had no plans to watch it, as it didnâ€™t seem very interesting, and seemed to be a cheesy morphing of other movies: Buffy vs. Tomb Raiders of the Lost Ark or something like that. But, I gave two hours to the home team to have a look at this stanky-*ss movie. ALA got my much briefer, more tempered (although no less negative) review.
The difficulty in reviewing this is that I was focusing on the portrayal of librarians. If Iâ€™d taken it as the campy fun for which it was, hopefully, intended, I might have enjoyed it more. I suspect that this will become a librarian cult classic, alongside Desk Set and Party Girl. As is, I groaned and smacked my forehead throughout the movie. My 13-year-old joined me as a co-reviewer.
What follows is a blow-by-blow running commentary. If you didnâ€™t watch the movie, be glad you didn't.
Okay...I've softened a bit. Go ahead and watch it. Don't take my word for it. It's like Velveeta...a guilty pleasure, and pretty cheesy.Olivia: Hurry upâ€”itâ€™s starting. The librarian is a dork. But heâ€™s funny!
Stereotype alert: We meet our hero, Flynn Carsen, working on some sort of class project. He is a 30-something brainiac with poor social skills and called â€œfreakâ€? by a classmate.
His professor is kicking him out of the Archaeology? Museum studies? Stagecraft? class because he already has 22 college degrees. What is he, 90?
Stereotype Alert: Our hero goes home to mama where he goes to his bedroom to thumb through his books which are â€œslices of the ultimate truth.â€? He questions out loud if books have led him astray and messed up his life. His mother teases him in a snap-out-of-it-sonny way and says, â€œDonâ€™t listen to the books if they tell you to start firesâ€¦or hurt small animals.â€? Very good advice.
Mom tries to hook up son with a nice girl. Our hero snaps when the young woman, a social worker, questions him about being in school so long: â€œI like to learn. Does that make me a criminal? Iâ€™m not a freak.â€? Okay, dude! Youâ€™re not a freak. But, the nice girl says she understands and voila, he realizes that something needs to change. He is, he realizes, a freak.
We next see our hero on the floor of his bedroom, making notes and scribbling on several sheets of paper. I think I saw this scene is Spiderman. Is Flynn making plans for a superhero costume? He gets frustrated and slumps against a shelf, which loosens an avalanche of books onto his head. Metaphor? Thatâ€™s the problem. Heâ€™s been reading books rather than beating them against his head.
But then, but then! He notices an envelope and opens it. Itâ€™s a very sparkly card inviting him to apply for a position at the Metropolitan Public Library (MPL). Job searches sure have changed since I got out of library school. Wait. Library school. Is there an MLS among those 22 degrees?
Jaunty music plays as Flynn goes to the MPL to apply. While in line, a woman comes out of an interview sobbing. Lesson number 1: Librarians make people cry.
Flynn is called into the office a woman named Charlene. How does a middle manager get an office like that? Damn, that's swank! When Flynn is asked why he thinks he should be The Librarian, he shrugs and responds, â€œI read a lot of books?â€? Heh, heh.
Charlene, the menopausal, acerbic administrator (played by Jane Curtin, and one of the best parts of the movie) gives him a look that says, â€œTry again jokester.â€? Here we get our first insider nod to librarianship. â€œI know Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress. I know how to use RSS feeds.â€? RSS?! Hoo boy! Not good enough for Charlene. â€œEverybody knows thatâ€”theyâ€™re librarians.â€? Not sure who sheâ€™s been working with, but when I mention RSS feeds, I mostly get blank looks. Our hero then rattles off all sorts of bizarre, obscure encyclopedic factoids, including personal information that makes Charlene blanch.
My daughter and I look at each other and I say, â€œHeâ€™s got Asperger Syndrome,â€? (an autistic spectrum disorder characterized by poor social skills, photographic memory, and often times an intense interest in obscure subject matter). Olivia, an â€œApsie" herself, swelled with pride and said, â€œHell, yeah!â€?
Flynn says the magic words, some cornball phrase about how itâ€™s what you know in your heart, not in your head, which counts. Ding ding ding! Heâ€™s hired. No reference calls. No transcript request. No background check. (Note to self: add heartwarming platitudes to all cover letters from here on out.) Charlene introduces him to Judson (Bob Newhart) who is either the director, or God, or maybe like Charlie, with Flynn as his angel. They all approach what I assume are the closed stacks when Flynn is told â€œYouâ€™re about to see something that few men have ever seen.â€? Does that mean lots of women have seen it? Nuh. This is dude territory, with the gals playing supporting roles.
(Land Rover commercial. Obviously, librarians are not the target audience of this movie.)
Flynn gets to see all the treasures kept in MPL. The first one, oddly enough, seems to be Ted Williams' head. No, wait. Olivia tells me that itâ€™s Pandoraâ€™s Box . Thereâ€™s other stuff, too. The sword in the stone. The goose that laid the golden egg. The lost ark. A jet pack from a James Bond movie (wacky moment). At this point, my friend Eric, a non-MLS librarian calls and we commiserate over the stereotypes weâ€™ve already seen. Weâ€™ve worked with Flynn and Charlene (and so have you). We also talk about how awful the movie is so far.
They go around the closed stacks and Flynn is told, â€œthe Secret of the Library has been kept for thousands of years.â€? I thought this was when they were going to divulge his salary, but Flynn starts skipping around like a kid in a candy store, looking at all the neato stuff. You knowâ€¦the wonder and magic of knowledge.
The next day, Charlene and Flynn are trying to get into the building when Flynn jokes to boss lady that sheâ€™s a minute late and will have to dock herself. Heh heh. Then he gives her a coffee. Awwww. â€œI hate a kiss-ass,â€? she replies. (She is the best thing about this movie. I am adopting her as my role model.) Once they get in, they discover that the closed stacks have been broken into. Reviewing the security tape, they discover that itâ€™s the work of the Serpent Brotherhood, plus one obligatory hot Asian chick, who have stolen the â€œSpear of Destiny.â€? Actually, it was only one piece of the spear, and whoever has all three pieces can control the world. With absolute gravity, Judson comments that Hitler had only one piece of the spear. (gulp) Wait...librarians have had a piece all this time? And what have we done with it? I think there needs to be a coup at the Metropolitan Public Library. I could make good use of that spear piece.
Our hero goes to dial the police when Charlene sarcastically tells him to go ahead, call the police, tell them about the Spear of Destiny and the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and enjoy his visit in the psych ward. And I swear she followed up by saying, â€œI hear Thorazine comes in vanilla now.â€? Do tell. At this point, Flynn learns that the fate of the world is in his hands. Heâ€™s packed up and sent off to retrieve all three sword pieces. On the plane headed toward the Amazon, heâ€™s seated next to the obligatory cold-fish, but oh-so-sexy British chick, Nicole. Sheâ€™s more than a hostile seat mate.
It gets ridiculous(er) after this point.
The brotherhood and their hot chick are on the airplane as well. Combat ensues. Our hero is pushed out the plane and saved by the cold-fish-with-hidden-parachute hottie, who has been assigned to protect him. They land somewhere in the Amazon, and our know-all hero figures out exactly where they need to go after viewing the panorama from a tree. During their quest, our hero tries to draw out Nicole and learn more about her and the previous Librarian who everyone is loathe to discuss. She snarkily comments that Flynn probably has a girlfriend who has â€œbig glasses, wears dirndl skirts and makes you watch the subtitles in documentaries.â€? Ouch!
Sitting near a campfire where they are roasting some sort of meat (endangered parrot or monkey?) our hero expresses self-doubt. â€œNo one talks about The Librarian. Not even The Librarian,â€? protests Nicole. Sheâ€™s warming up. He does a creepy â€œI know everything about youâ€? spiel and she calls him a nerd. Only she draws it outâ€”neeerd. Such a hateful word never sounded so appealing.
Darn it if they arenâ€™t captured by generic Amazonian savages. Thank goodness, they speak Portuguese as does our hero. Flynn and Nicole are feted with a ritual mating dance (on which Flynn had written a masterâ€™s thesis). In the morning, Flynn is missing from the hut and Nicole runs out to find him hobnobbing with tribe. Relieved that he is alive, but angry that he has left her protection, she whaps him upside the head to which he replies, â€œWhat is this? Slap the librarian day?â€? This, I predict will go straight into the annals of greatest sig files of all time.
The bad guys, plus one, show up but hero and plucky gal pal escape. (Iâ€™m ready to give up at this point and feeling cheated that I have missed the Simpsons for this, but Olivia encourages me to stick it out.) The two end up at some pyramid where dramatic/adventure clichÃ©s aboundâ€”moving walls, flaming arrows, booby traps. Somehow, they get one of the three pieces of the spear, and upon exiting the pyramid are greeted by the bad guys, fronted by the last The Librarian, who everyone thought was dead, but just requested a transfer to the dark side (a metaphor for using your MLS to make tons of money in IT?). Hot chick goes up to Flynn to take the spear piece from him and whispers, â€œI really admire your work.â€? She so totally digs him, but sheâ€™s all about doing evil.
On they all go to the Himalayas to look for another spear piece. Somehow they get outfitted with inadequate outerwear, and sunglasses from the Bono collection. But, even in blizzard conditions, our hero shows his mettle by refusing to pull up the hood of his jacket. We are starting to see that he is one tough mofo. Just as the Not-Dead-But-Evil-Former-The Librarian is about to kill Flynn for taking him on a goose chase, they spy a sun-drenched scene of saffron-robed monks and a Buddhist temple, headed by the guy who played the sour emperor in The Princess Diaries. Ten steps from blizzard to balmy. Talk about your microclimates!
The last spear piece is retrieved from Buddhaâ€™s belly, bad kung fu fighting ensues (the monks just dive for cover), and again our heroes escape.
Now, here is the most important part of the movie: The Librarian gets drunk and laid! But, when he wakes up with cotton mouth and a throbbing head, the girl and the spear are gone. Was he â€œcahootedâ€? or was his now-warm cold-fish honey kidnapped? This leads our hero back to the US where he discovers that the professor who booted him in the first place is Super Evil and in league with the Serpent dudes. And, as Olivia observed, â€œLibrarian gonna kick some ass.â€? Librarians do kick ass, and win, with the money shot being the cat fight between the hot chicks. The Serpent chick wants The Librarian all to herself, but Brit Chick spits, â€œGet your own geek,â€? before cleaning her clock once and for all. Meow!
In yet another heavy-handed metaphor, we see our hero in a moment of quiet reflection in the closed stacks, where he Pulls-the-Sword-from-the-Stone. Ahâ€¦knowledge and geekiness are power. I get it.
Flynn has lunch with his mom who is still trying to hook him up, and questions this mysterious girlfriend heâ€™s always talking about. He tells his mom â€œBeing a librarian is a pretty cool job.â€? (Well, duh!) Nicole screeches up on a motorcycle, whips off her helmet and shakes out her hair. Introductions are made, Flynn is briefed on the latest crisis, and off they roar to save the day, with a fleet of ninjas right behind them. Please tell me that this does not leave the door open for a sequel.