The Librarian: Quest for the Spear

He’s memorized the Earth. He has 22 degrees. He decrypted the language of the Garden of Eden in under 8 hours. He’s never had a girlfriend, and he lives with his mother. He is Flynn Carson, The Librarian. In The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, hopeless and hapless Flynn rather unwittingly gets a job as the librarian of a secret and labyrinthine treasure trove hidden below the New York Metropolitan Library. On his second day, Flynn, along with his bosses Judson and Charlene, discovers that the library’s piece of the Spear of Destiny has been stolen by the Brotherhood of the Serpent, an evil group bent on—you guessed it—world domination. Flynn’s reaction? “I really thing that you should get a parking space before being asked to fight an evil conspiracy.”

What follows is exactly what you would expect: Flynn goes on a quest to find the spear, meets the lovely Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger, who plays Penelope on Lost), decodes, decrypts, dives off cliffs, and discovers his courage. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. Flynn gets the girl.

The story’s not original, but it is delightful. Much as it shames me to admit it, my favorite part is the tour through the library-- all that stuff! They have the Grail! And secret passcodes, and those key things that two people have to turn at once, like with nuclear weapons: "Where do you think the army got the idea?" says Judson. Is it possible to be a fangirl for mythical objects? And does this librarian job really exist? Where do I apply?

The latter two-thirds of the movie, which take us from the Amazon to the Himalayas to Mongolia, are part Indiana Jones, part Dora the Explorer. It’s G-rated fun that knows its G-rated, and that there is nothing wrong with that. No one dies and there's no blood, but the bridge-collapsing scene was actually fairly suspenseful.

At times the casting took me out of the story: I kept wanting Penelope to go back to finding Desmond. And the head of the Brotherhood is Kyle MacLachlan, who will always be Special Agent Dale Cooper. But the real star is Noah Wyle as Flynn, who manages to pull off befuddled and brilliant at the same time. He doesn't pull any punches, either: his version of a tribal mating dance is a great example of an actor really throwing himself into a part and sacrificing any and all dignity. Judson (Bob Newhart, the Godfather of Deadpan) and Charlene (Jane Curtain, who comes from France) imbue the library scenes with a quaint cynicism that, of course, belies their growing affection for their new Librarian and their love for the objects contained in the library.

The object of the quest, of course, is the MacGuffin to end all MacGuffins. The Spear of Destiny (or the Lance of Longinus) has, like the Grail, a long and storied history. In my favorite version, Charlemagne receives the spear and uses its power to conquer most of Western Europe, possessing more land than any man before—well, to the historians of the time, that is. On his deathbed, along with foolishly dividing his kingdom among his sons, the great Emperor bequeathed the spear to one Athelstan, King of England. Never heard of Athelstan? Yeah, that’s why I like this version best. Maybe the spear lost its mojo when it crossed the English Channel.

World domination aside, there is something rather delightful about our continued participation in theses myths. We know the spear isn’t real, we know the Holy Grail doesn’t exist, and we know that two people probably can’t survive a 500-foot drop over a rushing waterfall in the Amazon. But we willingly suspend our disbelief in the cause of a good yarn, which not only gives us pleasure but also links us back to the generations and generations of readers, listeners, and watchers who’ve enjoyed other quest narratives.

That’s all a bit serious, of course, for a movie that’s all in good fun. While watching I started a list of funny quotes to mention, but it got a little too long (and most of them depended on Bob Newhart’s dry and halting delivery to be really funny). So instead I’ll recommend that you Netflix it, Tivo it, whatever. And enjoy.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

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