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Librarian - Return to King Solomon's Mines, The

Warner Bros. // Unrated // December 19, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted January 18, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The nerve of TNT to produce a cheese-heavy action-adventure movie franchise and actually have it work.

"The Librarian" is the header for two made-for-basic-cable films now, and both of them have been wonderful surprises despite an inherent corniness that would make any sane viewer assume the worst. These movies are unabashedly fun, a breezy cocktail of dopey action and broad laughs, topped off with special effects that would have looked lame on an episode of "Xena: Warrior Princess," but, you know, in a good way.

Both the original film, "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear," and now its sequel, "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines," stars Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen, a bumbling bookworm chosen to defend the world with his combination of bravado and smarts - a sort of Indiana Geek. He works for "The Library," where hidden behind the stacks of reference volumes and Dan Brown novels is a massive collection of not-so-mythical relics: Excalibur, the Ark of the Covenant, Poseidon's trident, etc. It's up to the Librarian to watch over these artifacts while stopping dastardly types who wish to use them for their own wicked ends.

"Quest for the Spear" was your basic origin tale, following Flynn as he became The Librarian while saving the world from the villainy of Kyle MacLachlan. Now, for "Return to King Solomon's Mines," we get to learn a little about Flynn's past: his father was killed when Flynn was quite young, and all Flynn remembers are the bedtime stories about African adventure. And I can see you're already one step ahead of the plot, for what if Flynn's dad wasn't a meek clothing salesman, but an ace adventurer who spent his life searching for King Solomon's Mines? Could there be clues hidden in the stories he told and the heirlooms he left behind?

Well, of course there are. So when a group of slimy bad guys (led by the wonderful character actor Erick Avari) swipe an ancient map, it's up to Flynn to recover it before the magical Book of Solomon (which grants immeasurable power and such) lands in the proverbial wrong hands. At Flynn's side are a hottie archeologist (Gabrielle Anwar) and a tribal warrior (Hakeen Kae-Kazim) who knows the secret to warding off hippos.

The whole thing's presented once more with a wink and a smile, this time courtesy of Jonathan Frakes, who's transitioned quite well from "Star Trek" hero to director of enjoyably lightweight adventure. His previous film work (which, outside of the "Trek" universe, includes the clunky "Clockstoppers" and the flawed-but-likable "Thunderbirds") reveals a knack for plain-old fun, and now, with "The Librarian," he gets a screenplay (from first-timer Marco Schnabel) that finally lets him break loose with the winks and the grins and the gosh-darn good times. (Like his theatrical work, this one's aimed at a family audience, although a few of the action scenes go pretty dark in tone, making it not too appropriate for the youngest viewers.) Frakes plays fast and loose with the action, refusing to take anything seriously while simultaneously refusing to play anything down just because it's just a TV movie. He's a filmmaker who understands when the story is working with an old formula, and he's willing to serve it up with a smile, making the material work despite any predictability.

The result is entertainment that's just plain giddy, with rollicking action and a playful tone that are hard to resist. Once again, we get Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, and Olympia Dukakis in supporting roles, which only beefs up the merriment, while Wyle makes an excellent self-effacing hero. As such, "Return to King Solomon's Mines" is another treat for Flynn Carsen fans, and another reason to keep this franchise going strong.

The DVD

Video & Audio


TNT has a track record for treating its made-for-TV movies with respect, and the "Librarian" series is no exception. The anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) transfer reveals stunning digital photography, making the most of the lush landscapes (and revealing the weak points in the visual effects). The soundtrack shines as well in Dolby 5.1. Optional Spanish subtitles are included.

Extras

The 12-minute featurette "In the Den with the Librarian's Special Effects Artists" begins and ends as your typical fluff piece - "boy, it's fun to work on this series," that sort of thing - but in the middle, there's a solid (if quick) rundown of the movie's effects processes, plus a brief chat from Frakes about digital moviemaking. Presented in anamorphic widescreen.

The only other extras are previews for "Quest for the Spear" and "The Closer: Season 2."

Final Thoughts

"Return to King Solomon's Mines" is as embarrassingly satisfying as its predecessor, maybe even more so. Recommended.
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