Liz Tells Frank What Happened In TNT’s “The Librarian”

Dear Frank,

posterThe other day, as I looked through my media collection, I was reminded of how many kinda stupid things I kinda totally love. Like, the 2002 Jennifer Lopez movie Enough, where Billy Campbell beats the shit out of Jennifer Lopez until she says ENOUGH! It’s through-and-through Lifetime crap, but I have seen it at least a half dozen times, the guilt tearing at me inside.

There’s so much other stuff I haven’t seen, Frank! And good stuff, too! The Internet won’t stop yelling about True Detective, but I’m rewatching a movie that contains lines of dialogue like “You have a divine animal right to protect your life and the life of your offspring.” STOP ME, FRANK. HELP ME SAY ENOUGH WITH ENOUGH.

I bring up stupid things I love apologetically to provide a contrast to stupid things I love unapologetically. Like, for example, the TNT original film series The Librarian: [Let’s Go Looking For Insert Precious Relic Here], which (it was recently announced) will soon become fodder for an upcoming TV show! Holy shit, Frank! Is it fucking CHRISTMAS?

I love The Librarian movies so much that I actually have them on DVD. Not because I purchased them, but because friends would come across free screener copies at their various Hollywood jobs and think, “Well, I’M not going to watch this, but I bet Liz would appreciate having a copy.”

That’s right, Frank, I love these movies so much that when people encounter them in the wild, they think of me.

I have really great friends.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, the first in the series, is what would happen if Indiana Jones was a giant dork and Bob Newhart did kung fu. By which I mean the Indiana Jones-esque protagonist, played by Noah Wyle, is a giant dork, and Bob Newhart does kung fu. (We’ll get to that, Frank.)

(Oh, and by the way, Noah Wyle is also in Enough, so that digression up top isn’t as much of a digression as you might think! I totally planned it that way. Totally.)

Noah is a guy named Flynn, and Flynn LOVES being a student, to the point where he has 22 degrees in stuff! He is a degree addict! Which his professor thinks is bad, and thus is forcing him to no longer be a student and instead get some “real life experience.” Sad music plays! Bob Newhart watches from afar!

I am realizing, Frank, that a super-detail-oriented telling of what happens in the first Librarian might not be truly worthy of my time. (And/or may be why I totally stalled out on writing this during my initial attempt, and you are reading it on a Friday.) So let’s see how fast we can get through this, so I can do more important things.

Flynn is quickly established as a loser, despite his many degrees, largely because he still lives with his mother, has never really had a job, and doesn’t ever seem to get laid (despite looking like Noah Wyle, who looks really cute in glasses BTW).

Pulling. Them. Off.

Pulling. Them. Off.

The living-with-his-mother thing doesn’t seem so lame to me, because his mother is played by Olympia Dukakis and she is the absolute best. Seriously, she might actually have the best line in the whole damn movie; no, not what evolves into the moral of the story, which boils down to “It’s not enough to know a lot of book shit, you also have to have a heart in the metaphorical way not just in the literal way (since having a literal heart is pretty much a gimme if you’re an alive human being).”

The Best Line In the Movie, instead, is something she says to Flynn after he says that books “talk to him”: “What do the books say to you? Do they tell you to set fires? Don’t listen to the books if they tell you to set fires!”

There’s actually some good dialogue in The Librarian, Frank. Its dialogue is as good as its CGI is bad! We’ll get into that in a second.

Thanks to Lurking Bob Newhart from before (who I guess saw Something Special in him), Flynn gets a magic piece of paper inviting him to interview for a job at the Metropolitan Public Library.

His interviewer? Jane Curtin, who is serving up fierce Jane Curtin realness (how I fucking love her). The only thing that could improve a scene featuring Grumpy Jane Curtin? Flynn going all Sherlock Holmes on her, deducing how long ago she got divorced and how many cats she has! Frank, we’ve been over my Sherlock Holmes-in-all-media feels, but just as a quick reminder — SO HOT.

Jane Curtin hires him, and then Bob Newhart magically appears (not kidding, there are gold sparkles and a wind chime and everything) to begin explaining what the fuck it actually means, the fact that Noah Wyle got hired to be The Librarian just now. (Definite article definitely deliberate.)

Like I said, Frank, GOLD SPARKLES and WIND CHIMES.

Like I said, Frank, GOLD SPARKLES and WIND CHIMES.

OH! Fun fact about Bob Newhart I just learned from this Reddit AMA X-Files creator Chris Carter just did — he was originally supposed to be Jose Chung in “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” AKA one of the best X-Files episodes ever…

…That might not be as fun a fact for you as it is for me. But hey, BOB NEWHART.

Actually, let’s talk about Bob Newhart for a second. This is the section of The Librarian that is basically a full 10 minutes of exposition about The Library and the secrets it contains and what being The Librarian really means (hint: It doesn’t have a lot to do with actual books, and more to do with guarding precious relics like Pandora’s Box, Tesla’s Death Ray, and the Arc of the Covenant).

This sequence could EASILY have been the dullest shit since… I dunno, what was the last really boring thing I watched for you? Maybe Larry Crowne? Maybe. But it is saved by two things: Some decent physical comedy on Noah Wyle’s part, and BOB FUCKING NEWHART.

Frank, I’m sure Bob Newhart didn’t invent the concept of a deadpan delivery, but for fuck’s sake the man is a fucking ninja master of the art form. (Not to be confused with his kung fu skills — WE’LL GET TO THAT.) It’s his pauses that kill it; these delicate little beats of hesitation that transform a bit of dialogue like this…

This box once belonged to a girl named Pandora. She opened it one day… and evil controlled the land for years. So I think it’s best not… Not to repeat her mistake.

…from dullsville to Comedy Town: Population Comedy. Can science start working on the technology to keep Bob Newhart alive forever? I would appreciate that very much.

Also, some of Noah Wyle’s physical comedy includes chasing around a JET PACK. Frank, I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed this, but if you ever have the chance to buy me a jet pack, BUY ME A JET PACK. I will totally pay you back. Eventually.

So things are looking good for Flynn, except that the night before his first day on the job, The Library is robbed! Oh noes! What gets stolen? Oh, just a piece of the Spear of Destiny (AKA “the spear that poked Jesus hard during the Cruxificion and is thus now magic”). I’m sure you didn’t see that coming, given, I dunno, the title of the damn thing we’re watching? Yeah.

Jane and Bob’s strategy in reaction to the Spear being stolen is to track down the other pieces of the spear (why? ::shrug::), so Flynn is handed a book to translate and a plane ticket to the middle of nowhere. He’s not thrilled about this, at least until this lady wanders onto his plane:

Seriously, she walks in like a goddamn shampoo commercial. Giant off-screen blowy fan and everything!

Seriously, she walks in like a goddamn shampoo commercial. Giant off-screen blowy fan and everything!

This lady, played by Penny from Lost and cleverly named Nicole Noone — because Flynn was told to “trust no one” like “NOONE” geddit? — is quick to let him know that he stands no chance with her (though, Frank, as an educated man of letters, I’m sure you guess that they’re gonna bone before the end of this thing).

But then some henchmen try to kill Flynn, and she saves him! Because she works for The Library. Her job? Keeping Librarians alive. (She’s vaguely haunted by the fact that she doesn’t have a 100 percent success rate on this score, but we’ll get to that way before we get to the part where BOB NEWHART DOES KUNG FU.)

They escape the henchmen by skydiving off the commerical airliner (sure) and into a jungle. Jungle fun ensues! Including some really bad CGI — not, like, incompetent, just clearly very cheap. (Apparently, they saved all their money to teach Bob Newhart how to do kung fu DON’T WORRY, FRANK, IT’S COMING.)

Seriously, the budget for the CGI probably cost about three packs of gum.

Seriously, the budget for the CGI probably cost about three packs of gum.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the other actors who show up in this thing. Like evil former Librarian Kyle McLachlan! With hair arguably worse than his hair in Showgirls and a desire for POWER. (He’s the Librarian that Nicole thought she let get killed, and maybe she also dated him?

And there’s Kelly Hu, the nice young lady who played Lady Deathstrike in X2 and has a really cute runner in this movie where she has this super-intense crush on Flynn despite the thing where she’s supposed to be hunting him down for Kyle McLachlan!

So of course Flynn and Nicole totally fall in love over the course of their adventure-ing, which means that when Nicole’s life is threatened by Evil Kyle, Flynn agrees to help Evil Kyle track down the rest of the spear.

This journey takes them all around the world, Frank! An exciting world of terrible CGI!

This journey takes them all around the world, Frank! An exciting world of terrible CGI!

(Huh. You know, I can’t remember the last time I saw Kyle McLachlan not be evil in something. Someday I’m finally going to watch Twin Peaks and find it very very confusing.)

The official boning between Nicole and Flynn takes place after they find the third piece of the spear and escape from Evil Kyle’s grasp — though the morning after, Nicole and the spear piece disappear, either willingly or unwillingly because of Evil Kyle! (Initially, Flynn thinks that Nicole is “cahooting” with Evil Kyle, but actually she was kidnapped — don’t worry, Frank, this plot point doesn’t matter in the slightest.)

Fortunately, Flynn knows just where Evil Kyle will take the pieces of the spear to assemble them — the same place where we started this movie, a fake pyramid that Flynn was helping build inside a museum! Way to reuse that set, guys. Or what technically counts as a set:

Really can't emphasize enough how bad the CGI is in this thing. Really wish I didn't love it.

Really can’t emphasize enough how bad the CGI is in this thing. Really wish I didn’t love it.

Evil Kyle starts the magic procedure to reassemble the magic spear, but things are about to get messy, because NOW IT’S TIME FOR BOB NEWHART TO DO SOME KUNG FU.

He used to be a Marine, you see — he has the tattoo and everything! So he basically lays waste to Evil Kyle’s minions single-handedly. Oh, the flipping and kicking and throat-crunching and punching that occurs. He literally knocks out a dozen dudes. It’s great!



His ass-kicking is intercut with a showdown between Flynn and Evil Kyle, and a different showdown between Nicole and Kelly Hu. Said girlfight is kicked off with the kick-ass musical sting we all remember fondly from the epic trailer to Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Wait, no. Not the ACTUAL track that plays in Kill Bill, Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” — instead, The Librarian uses one of the cheapest, most bargain-bin fake sound-alikes of said tune you could ever imagine. It apparently cost this film’s ENTIRE BUDGET to teach Bob Newhart how to do kung fu. Worth it? Honestly, maybe.

All these showdowns go well for our heroes! Evil Kyle gets crushed by the fancy gold top of the pyramid, after Flynn uses his knowledge of the pre-existing set pyramid to make it collapse. Flynn takes his mom out to lunch and is finally able to introduce a girl to his mom! And then it’s off to new adventures!

New adventures with new girls, that is. In the subsequent films, Sonya Walger is replaced by the chick from Burn Notice, who is in turn replaced by the chick from Castle, because another thing Flynn has in common with Indiana Jones is an extreme lack of fidelity.

As silly as this franchise is, though, writing this has gotten me genuinely excited about the TV show. While The Librarians won’t be Shakespeare, it will most likely be FUN. And it will also not be the 2002 Jennifer Lopez movie Enough. I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.



About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on February 28, 2014, in All the Spoilers, Movies, TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. lol I just…have no words. Except: you haven’t seen Twin Peaks? Oh myyy… 😉

  2. Oh God, I own this film (and the second one) too. And I bought them myself for some reason. I’m going to try and be more like you and love these not very good films unapologetically. I don’t know if I will be able to pull that off, because the CGI is indeed so bad. But Noah Wyle! And Bob Newhart! Jane Curtin! Kelly Hu! They are all great. Hmmm, I might manage after all.

  3. Kyle MacLachlan is also the hero in DUNE (his first collab with David Lynch) and THE HIDDEN (a wonderfully trashy buddy-cop/sci-if mashup that also features Claudia Christian as an alien-possessed stripper).

  4. Hannah Harling

    Okay, so I was three when I started watching The X-Files, but because my mother was in medicine, and it was inappropriate for children, I wasn’t allowed to stay up and watch ER for the first ten years of my life. By that point, the snippets of it I caught were utterly conflated with real life, and I thought it was semi-autobiographical (I am Tess Ross! Obviously.), and therefore not at all interesting to me.

    But then, this year, so many years after the death of it’s progressive yahoo and webring based internet fandom, I finally sat down to watch it, and boy, was I ever pleasantly surprised.

    Doctors! Nurses! Trauma! Noah Wyle’s CHEEKBONES!

    Naturally, I marathoned the whole thing (it was a very full eleven days of my life), and was quickly pressed into a search for more Wyle wares. I think quite enough has been said about Enough – honestly, I couldn’t follow the plot because all the men looked so similar I was confused as to who was stalking whom. Also, was it a drama? A thriller? Action? Suspense?! Tell me!

    But The Librarian movies…oh my Dumbledore, these movies. I was trying to explain to my everyone what they were. They’re like Indiana Jones delirious with fever, or like Flash Gordon comics with slightly fewer glowy objects, or like just delightful drunken bites of heaven. Somehow, I never really managed to nail down an adequately tantalising description of them – until I found this article.

    I may have adapted this into a dramatic monologue which I forced my mother to sit through. I may have posted it on my facebook wall, and furiously tagged multiple friends in its comment box. I may have bookmarked this page, and returned to it more than once just to revel in its beautifully explained truths.

    All this to say, THANK YOU so much for telling Frank about The Librarian: Etc. here, because now I can tell everyone! Just in time for set pics, and bts interviews of the new show!

    Love this site. You’re all fantastic. Cheers.

  5. doublepressure

    I found this while searching for better, less vague spoiler information about the TV show.
    So wait… the librarians are magical alternate universe creatures of some sort? OH PLEASE NO. This is just going to make the TV series more ridiculous and stupid. The show hasn’t even aired and I think I’ve just completely lost my respect for John Larroquette. It was already faltering with that Almost Human garbage.

  6. Notice how in The Librarian no one ever uses a curse word? Liz . . .

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