Television Review: The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

I really like Noah Wyle, the actor best known for his long run on ER who is soon to be back in the spotlight with Falling Skies, the new Steven Spielberg-produced series. And I love the first three Indiana Jones movies. (Let us not speak of the fourth.) This should make me the ideal audience for the Librarian trilogy, a fairly obvious Indiana Jones rip-off made for television, starring Noah Wyle. However, I hated part one a little, part two a lot and I think it will be a good long while before I feel masochistic enough to check out part three, though I’ve been told it’s better than its predecessors and co-stars that nice lady from Castle.

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines (2006) – the middle part of the trilogy – is a perfect reminder why I tend to avoid television movies like the plague: mediocrity to the max. The dialogue, acting, sets and special effects are all half-baked. The script consists of lame one-liners, some cheesy emotional scenes, very obvious foreshadowing of things to come, believability stretched beyond repair and too many coincidences; the crutch of any bad writer who dug himself a narrative hole. To sum up the plot: Wyle works as a ‘librarian’ at a place where mystical, ancient artifacts are stored. He is sent out in the field to obtain one such artifact, hooks up with a sexy archeologist and confronts some demons from his childhood. There is perfunctory globetrotting, though most locations seem to be on the back lot of a movie studio.

The story culminates in a large ceremonial cave, with elements suspiciously similar to the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The budget strained to keep up with the script from the beginning and at this point it coughs up the last of its petty cash for some laughable these-looked-snazzy-circa-the-eighties special effects. A ‘big’ adventure like this requires something visually spectacular when it peaks, but Librarian II limps to the finish. The climactic scene involves what seem to be fireworks superimposed on some mountains, to signify stuff blowing up real big. Wyle’s charisma is the only thing compensating for the craptastic nature of the rest of the movie, but even Harrison Ford in his prime would have been dragged down by something this dire. It’s a shame, as Wyle is clearly enjoying the chance to play a cheeky adventurer and is pretty good at it.

Productions like this are an exercise in frustration to watch: you can see what they were going for and how they could have made it work at least somewhat better, given a thorough script polish and a larger budget. As it stands, the time, money and effort actually invested seem completely wasted on a half-hearted product that won’t raise anyone’s pulse. The lesson here is: do something well, or don’t do it at all. This is exactly the kind of generic, inferior movie that life’s too short to waste time on.

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