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If you ever get a craving for Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford and you could push those films into the comedy genre, then The Librarian is what you would get. The sequel made-for-TV movie The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines keeps character Flynn Carson (played by Noah Wyle) running from beginning to end trying to save the world, again, with just enough down time between tense scenes to maintain the humor. Excellently cast with greats like Bob Newhart, Olympia Dukakis, and Jane Curtin, Wyle leads the way and shows he can be so much more than a blue-lit doctor on ER.
From the beginning of the film the character of Flynn is perfectly set and doesn’t change. He’s cocky but not arrogant, book smart with common sense, and portrays someone capable of doing all the zany things he does and at the same time physically able to fight off those ever present bad guys and sometimes hippos. While the movie is titled The Librarian, not much of the events of the film take place in the actual library. There’s almost a tongue in cheek humor to the film whereby Flynn’s adventures are suitable training for him to become a great librarian, not just a good one.
Return also has a magical quality to it, not just through computer animation, which there is plenty, but in the way the story is told. The objects Flynn pursues aren’t so far away from the same type of material that makes up the Indiana Jones films, but here they can come to life as he solves the mystery and is taken around the world from Cairo to Casablanca to Kenya. Even from the start Flynn fights off an independent moving Excalibur with King Triton’s trident only to become soaking wet and start drying his face with the nearby Shroud of Turin. Because of these early events it’s no surprise when the map to King Solomon’s Mines is stolen that Flynn will be in for more than a little running around and avoiding villains with eyes for treasure.
If saving the world wasn’t enough to keep Flynn hopping, a potential love interest played by Gabrielle Anwar doesn’t hurt. Her character ends up being more of a sidekick than a “take me along I’m scared and you’ll have to repeatedly save me” princess. Her character is strong and smart (she has 25 degrees to his 22) and holds her own quite well in the film. This alone is a relief for women everywhere to see the “beautiful maiden” not needing to be rescued. She chooses to go along with him and is never portrayed as his extra baggage.
While The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines isn’t the most impactful film of all time, because it doesn’t take itself seriously, it is a really decent movie. None of the characters are over the top and none of them are so far above being just human. While it has the visual quality and action sequences to be up there with Indiana and others of that ilk, it also lends itself to comedy and even makes fun of the fact that Flynn is repeatedly put in these types of situations. For a made-for-TV movie this one is definitely the leader of the pack and, as odd as it sounds, would have had the capability to hold it’s own on the big screen.
As for the disc for The Librarian: Return King Solomon’s Mines there is some disappointment because there is no audio commentary, but in the film’s defense, it was only made for television. It’s not like there were a ton of extra cameras or film lying around to cut together tons of special features for the disc or the dollars to pay the director or writer to come back and lay a track for the commentary. While it would have been a great addition to the disc, it’s understood why there isn’t a whole lot on it.
The extra that is available is “In the Den with the Librarian’s Special Effects Artist” featurette. This is a great look into what the animators had to do to create things like Excalibur to move on its own or a burning ghost man or how they used the green screen to show Wyle and Anwar attempting to cross a narrow bridge over a lava river a mile below. This feature runs for about thirteen minutes and is a nice touch for the film buffs that enjoy seeing how these effects were created.
While there could have at least been a picture gallery, bloopers, or bios for all the actors in the film, again, we know the movie was made for the TV originally. With any luck over the next few years there might be a slow but steady following and some kind of box set with both films and extras could be thrown together. Until then, and it may never happen, possibly a fold out map, a necklace like Wyle’s in the film, or some other novelty is patiently waiting to be born.
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