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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2006

Indiana Jones Lite

BY MIKE KELLY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Flynn Carson (Noah Wyle), center, encounters some problems as he tries to keep a magical book out of the hands of ne er-do-wells led by his Uncle Jerry (Robert Foxworth), right. Flynn Carson (Noah Wyle), center, encounters some problems as he tries to keep a magical book out of the hands of ne er-do-wells led by his Uncle Jerry (Robert Foxworth), right.
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Flynn Carson is not your typical Shhh please keep it down! librarian.

Oh, he s got the academic credentials, all right, and then some: 12 bachelor degrees, six masters, and four doctorates. And he does work at New York City s Metropolitan Library.

But Carson s job has nothing to do with rows of books or file cabinets full of microfiche. His responsibility is to protect the amazing repository of humanity s greatest secrets, hidden deep beneath the main library. Among its inventory are the Golden Fleece, Pandora s Box, the Ark of the Covenant, the sword Excalibur, a unicorn, the Shroud of Turin, and dozens of other items that most people believe exist only in legend and myth.

A big part of Carson s job is traveling around the world, trying to locate mystical relics of antiquity, keeping them out of the hands of all manner of bad guys, from sinister thugs or time-traveling ninjas. And it s those exotic and dangerous missions that are at the center of a new series of lighthearted adventure movies commissioned by the TNT cable network .

The latest, entitled The Librarian: Return to King Solomon s Mines, premieres at 8 p.m. tomorrow, with repeat airings scheduled throughout the week.

Reprising his role as the affable geek/hero is Noah Wyle (ER s Dr. John Carter), who also portrayed Flynn Carson in the first installment of the series, a 2004 TV movie called The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. That program drew nearly 7 million viewers, making it basic cable s top movie of the year.

Also returning for the sequel are Bob Newhart as Flynn s mysterious curator boss, Jane Curtin (3rd Rock from the Sun) as his snippy colleague, and Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) as his overprotective mother. A new love interest this time around is a brainy and beautiful archaeologist played by British actress Gabrielle Anwar (Al Pacino s tango partner in Scent of a Woman).

Carson s new adventure begins when he receives a map to the fabled mines of King Solomon, where there is said to be hidden a magical book, the Key of Solomon, that can summon the powers of the underworld and bend space and time. Anxious to keep the book out of the wrong hands, Carson s boss dispatches him to Africa to hunt it down. It becomes a more personal quest for the librarian when he discovers that his father, who died many years before, had a surprising connection to Solomon s mines.

Naturally, it turns out that there are evil mercenaries after Solomon s treasures, too, and the bookish, bumbling Carson an unlikely action hero if ever there was one would hardly seem to be a match for them. But with the help of his sexy sidekick and a few unexpected allies, the librarian gives the bad guys a run for their money.

If all this sounds suspiciously like a blatant rip-off of the Indiana Jones franchise, there s probably good reason for that. But rest assured that Flynn Carson is no Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford s dashing Professor Jones may be bookish, but he s also tough, resourceful, and a bit of a swashbuckler. Wyle s Carson is a good-natured nerd who wouldn t mind being a hero, but he isn t terribly interested in punching anybody in the nose along the way. Or being punched, either, for that matter.

Boy, that whole I m off on a mission where there s a good chance I ll probably die feeling he muses at one point. It never really goes away, does it?

Both Librarian movies have been produced by Dean Devlin, a successful Hollywood veteran whose big-screen films have included blockbusters such as Independence Day and The Patriot. He brings some nice production values to the small screen, but King Solomon s Mines is in no danger of being mistaken for a theatrical release.

OK, let s cut right to the bottom line: Is this a cheesy cable TV movie? Well, yeah. The plot is thinner than the parchment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the soundtrack is reminiscent of The Lion King, which is actually appropriate, since the movie s special effects wouldn t be out of place on a ride at Walt Disney World.

And yet.

The movie has its share of action scenes and cliffhanger drama, but it doesn t take itself too seriously. It s family-friendly fun, the kind of old-fashioned popcorn flick that you might have watched on a Saturday afternoon when you were a kid. There s no graphic violence to speak of, and Wyle s great likeability and surprising comedic touch elevate it above such fare as Romancing the Stone, an earlier Indiana Jones clone.

Whether or not there s another installment in the Librarian series probably will depend on how well this one does. There are lots of worse things on TV these days, and if you re up for a little Indy Lite, you could do worse than spending a couple of hours with Flynn Carson.



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