Raiding from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and a dozen other sources, producer Dean Devlin and company deliver a mildly diverting variation on the oldest of themes, as a nebbishy guy (a somewhat miscast Noah Wyle) finds himself thrust into the center of a perilous quest. Although hopelessly derivative and not nearly as much fun as it yearns to be, “The Librarian” is just peculiar enough to sustain interest among those who bother to check it out.
Much like its protagonist, a 30-year-old perpetual student named Flynn (Wyle), the movie is a slow starter but transitions to a harried pace once the plot kicks in. Drifting aimlessly, Flynn is invited to apply for a job at the Metropolitan Public Library, which is really a front for a shadowy operation charged with protecting legendary artifacts, including the aforementioned Ark of the Covenant, Excalibur and Pandora’s box.
It’s Flynn’s destiny, you see, to become “the librarian,” as his guides into this perplexing world (Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin) inform him. “The fate of the world is in my hands. That is just so … sad,” Flynn says.
Yep, the world is endangered by the Serpent Brotherhood, which steals part of the Spear of Destiny — a supernatural doodad Hitchcock would have called a MacGuffin. After the break-in, the race is on to acquire the remaining pieces, since the reassembled spear would enable the bad guys to do, um, really bad things?
OK, so the stakes are a bit sketchy. Fortunately, Flynn wings into the wilds flanked by a beautiful machete-wielding guardian, Nicole (Sonya Walger), leading to the inevitable showdown against evil Edward Wilde (Kyle MacLachlan, who’s only slightly better here than he was in “Showgirls”).
Some time after the creaky bridge crossing a la “Gunga Din” — or maybe it was the “Butch Cassidy” desperate plunge into water — I stopped tracking the homages. In fact, it seems as if David Titcher assembled the script entirely by using his computer’s cut-and-paste function.
This isn’t to say the movie is without moments, only that the whole enterprise (attractively shot in Mexico City, including a section ostensibly set in the Amazon) lacks even the faintest whiff of inspiration. In addition, the production piles on so many action sequences barreling toward its predictable climax that the supporting players have little to do.
Wyle is too much the leading man to be completely convincing as a nerd, while Walger (last seen in NBC’s “Coupling”) brings spice to the swashbuckling heroine — putting the Indiana in his Jones. “You brains, me brawn,” she tells him.
“The Librarian” does transform a bookworm into a hero, which in TV terms qualifies as educational programming. Still, a bit more attention to what’s actually on the page could have helped make “The Quest for the Spear” considerably sharper.