Astoundingly, this is the second review Judge Maurice Cobbs has written that references "The Breasts of Sheba."
New Continent. New Adventure. Still No Clue.
Let's get the obvious question out of the way—Is The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines just another Indiana Jones rip-off?
It seems that every adventure story filmed since 1981 has to be compared to Indiana Jones. And with good reason: Raiders of the Lost Ark is now the standard by which all others must be measured. But the Indiana Jones franchise has been so successful that people tend to forget that it too borrows liberally from the many film adventures that preceded it; after all, what is an Indiana Jones movie if not a classic serial thriller built on the framework of the James Bond formula? George Lucas and Steven Spielberg brought their love of those sorts of films to the screen, taking the elements that they cherished the most and blending them with a healthy dose of innovation. The result was cinematic magic, and it would be as wrong to dismiss Raiders of the Lost Ark as simply a rip-off of Secret Service in Darkest Africa or Green Hell as it would be to suggest that The Librarian is only a rip-off of the Indiana Jones films. If anything, both these entries in the adventure genre, which has been wildly popular since people started going to the movies a hundred years ago, are simply continuing the trend. And while The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines can hardly be considered cinematic magic, it does have enough charm and humor to allow fans of adventure movies to overlook the film's many flaws.
Facts of the Case
A year after recovering the Spear of Destiny from the malevolent forces of the Serpent Brotherhood, super-smart Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle, Swing Kids)—a loveable goof who happens to hold a staggering 22 degrees—has grown nicely into his top-secret job as The Librarian, guardian of a vast collection of history's most fabulous treasures, including the Golden Fleece, King Arthur's sword Excalibur, Pandora's Box, and the Ark of the Covenant. But when thugs attack Flynn and steal a mysterious package mailed to him from Africa, he discovers that the forces of evil are on the move once more. This time, they want to uncover the Key of Solomon, a powerful book of magic that can offer the reader control over time and space. In order to save the world—again—Flynn must locate King Solomon's Mines before the Key falls into the hands of the brutal General Samir (Erick Avari, Daredevil). Along the way he discovers some pretty surprising things about his deceased father, things that his mother Margie (Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck) might not even have known. Fortunately, he has the help of Emily Davenport (Gabrielle Anwar, Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead), a beautiful archeologist with even more degrees than Flynn and an obsession with the Queen of Sheba, the love of King Solomon's life.
This follow-up to 2004's The Librarian: Quest for the Spear isn't quite as fun as its predecessor. The first movie took the viewer on a breezy, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek adventure, but this movie gets bogged down in the subplot about Flynn's unresolved issues with his father. While it's nice to see an attempt at character development (and honestly, it was neat to see that Flynn has progressed from being a rather timid know-it-all to being an adventure-seeking know-it-all), director Jonathan Frakes (Thunderbirds) abandons the feel and tone that made the first film so enjoyable and instead attempts to inject a bit of pathos and - heaven forbid! - seriousness into the mix.
Instead of strengthening the story, the move to add unnecessary layers to the character of Flynn Carsen very nearly sabotages the concept. Luckily, Noah Wyle has enough of that loveable gee-golly charm to carry through. He's definitely more enjoyable on the screen when he's being the clueless action hero than when waxing sentimental about dear old departed dad.
I mean, it's not like there's anything particularly original or groundbreaking or innovative going here, so nothing added by Flynn's quest to understand his late father comes as any sort of surprise. Even the plot twists surrounding family friend Uncle Jerry (Robert Foxworth, Syriana) should come as no shock to anyone even remotely familiar with the conventions of the adventure genre. Not that that's a particularly bad thing. After all, movies like this serve as the equivalent of comfort food or security blankets. It's what you turn to when you want something safe, familiar, and comforting.
Speaking of familiar, the able supporting cast returns: Flynn's boss and mentor Judson (the always-likeable Bob Newhart) continues to dispense advice and support; the Library's humorless, anal-retentive administrator Charlene (Jane Curtin of Saturday Night Live fame) continues to nag Flynn about keeping receipts from on his globe-spanning adventures; and Flynn's mother Margie continues to try to fix him up on dates. Conspicuous by her absence this go-round was Flynn's bodyguard and love interest from the first adventure, Nicole, played with butt-kicking bravado by Sonya Walger (Lost). Instead, Flynn bickers with and romances Gabrielle Anwar, but no sparks seem to fly. The rest is, of course, standard adventure boilerplate: secret societies, thrilling chases, hidden treasure, hordes of thugs and henchmen, exotic locales (such as the "Breasts of Sheba"), and, of course, the occasional deathtrap.
And lots of special effects. In fact, the disc's lone special feature is a behind-the-scenes look at the people who created the movie's better-than-average-for-TV computer effects; their unbridled enthusiasm for their jobs alone makes this rather substantial featurette worth a look. Also impressive for the presentation is the crisp picture and rockin' 5.1 digital sound mix, far better than you'd expect for a television B-movie adventure. In fact, everything about this disc is above average - except, of course, for the movie itself.
It appears that Flynn Carsen will be returning for yet another globetrotting adventure; Jonathan Frakes says that he is already in the process of developing a third Librarian TV movie. Let's hope that next time around he can recapture more of the light, off-beat feel of the first film and not get bogged down in sentimental dross.
There are far more guilty TV offerings than this one, and what is justice if not tempered with mercy? Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "In the Den with the Librarian's Special Effects Artists" Featurette
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