Monday, March 16, 2015

The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice Review


In the third and final of The Librarian television films, I think we get probably the best Librarian movie yet.  By now everyone involved knows we have a fantastic/fantastical premise, where magic is real.  We also know the characters, which allow the actors to be broad or serious when necessary.  Curse of the Judas Chalice has a threat and a twist that is kind of expected, but it knows what it is: a good time, so one can't be too harsh on it.

Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) has been the Librarian, collector/keeper of magical objects of legend, for some time now, and a successful one at that.  His most recent acquisition is the Philosopher's Stone (take THAT, J.K. Rowling).  Of course, Flynn being Flynn, there were a couple of hiccups. First, he has to outbid a rival for the Ming-era vase that hides the Stone to the tune of a million pounds, which horrifies the ever-tightfisted Charlene (Jane Curtin).  Second, it costs Flynn his latest girlfriend, whom he had taken with him to London for a romantic holiday but whose Library duties get in the way. 

Back at the Library, Flynn has reached the end of his rope. He's missed his mother's 65th birthday, he has no private life, the work keeps growing (and not just because in the newly-discovered Large Collection Annex, which Flynn was not aware of that has such things as Noah's Ark and the Fountain of Youth), and his best friend is a SWORD! (Poor Excalibur).  At age 33, he is close to losing it.  Charlene and Senior Librarian Judson (Bob Newhart) tell him that Flynn might use up some vacation time.

Flynn's idea of a vacation is to stay home, but Charlene offers some advise: to have a vision and follow the dream. He then has a dream and vision of a beautiful woman beckoning him for help, and a stature of a soldier.  When he wakes and looks at the brochures of vacations, he sees his vision, and its off to let the good times roll in New Orleans.

When he arrives, he finds help from Andrew (Werner Richmond), a cabbie who knows all there is about the Big Easy (and who has many cousins in all sorts of businesses).  Andrew doesn't get why anyone, even one as wildly dressed as Flynn, would want to go to museums when in N'awlins, but he isn't going to worry about Mr. Professor Man's curious habits.

In a bar, he sees his vision come to life: a beautiful chanteuse whom Flynn tries to hit up.  She soon sweeps him into her world, and we learn that Simone (Stana Katic) is not a mere damsel in distress.  She has been guarding a key that in turn will lead them to the Judas Chalice, the cup made from the thirty pieces of silver paid to the first vampire, Judas Iscariot (go with me on this).  This cup can revive a long-sleeping vampire, and what better vampire than Dracula?

This is where we get the second story tied in: a Russian strongman wants to raise both Vlad the Impaler and the undead into an army that will RULE THE WORLD (Putin really is determined, isn't he?) and now Flynn, perhaps wittingly, perhaps not, must get the chalice first.  He must also deal with Simone, whom he has fallen in love with.  This relationship has a bit of a hang-up, as Simone herself is a vampire and wants revenge on the one who turned her.  Flynn must also try to rescue Professor Lazlo (Bruce Davison), whom the Russians are using as their reluctant guide.

That's a lot for him.  With a little help from both Simone, as well as Andrew and all his cousins (who curiously, are Asian and white), he does so, even if it means fighting the real Count Dracula (who could that be now...) and the loss of another love.  With the Judas Chalice now firmly in the Library's collection, and with Judson's past still a bit foggy, Flynn now embraces his work, but Judson tells him that Flynn and the Library will play a larger role in fighting evil...

Curiously, this last bit of foreshadowing is a long way coming, as Curse of the Judas Chalice premiered in 2008.  That means there is a six-year gap between this prophesy and the debut of The Librarians television show.  I couldn't tell you if in that interim there were plans being developed for the series, or perhaps a fourth movie, or just some vague opening for more adventures.  I can say that at least this allows a tie-in to The Librarians series without being forcing things too much.

Curse of the Judas Chalice follows The Librarian pattern well, and that's a positive thing here.  It does play with the convention a bit by not having Flynn go on a deliberate task but by having an effort to make it more accidental (though again, given Simone used her powers to visit the Librarian in a dream and Judson knowing more than he lets on suggests Flynn is being manipulated into the situation rather than it being mere happenstance).  However, Curse of the Judas Chalice knows itself well enough to live up to the New Orleans unofficial motto of Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Here is the key to both The Librarian movies and The Librarians television show: you mustn't take it seriously.  The franchise certainly doesn't, and we see this best captured when Flynn arrives in the Big Easy.  While other tourists come in sensible clothing, Flynn arrives in a bright white suit, red bow tie, and white Panama hat.  Wyle's still-youthful and expressive face (along with his wild but still appealing ensemble...I certainly would love to wear that) along with his great physical comedy reflect Flynn Carsen to be both a man and a boy simultaneously.  Flynn in his way is very innocent, despite being highly intelligent.  Simone at one point compliments him for giving the appearance of a hapless loser, unaware that he really is like that.

If something sells The Librarian movies, it's Wyle, who makes Flynn likeable and endearing and believable as a meek man of action.  Wyle lets Flynn be comic even in his frustration, but whether fighting a rival in a swordfight (and spouting techniques, reprimanding his opponent for damaging artwork, or being the instrument of damage himself), or facing off against Russian thugs, Wyle makes even the most outlandish things plausible.  It's a credit to him that he is able to bring the gentle humor in all things.

Katic is excellent as both the femme fatale and the damsel in distress.  Even when fighting off her vampire instincts, Katic is sympathetic (and yes, beautiful).  When she has her final scene, asking Flynn to stay with her while she watches a sunrise for the first time in centuries, there is a genuine sadness in the situation.  She has defeated Dracula (who turned her into a vampire), and is at peace.  Despite her love for Flynn, she knows her time has come to an end. 

Richmond I hope makes some kind of return appearance because he was a highlight of the comedy, his easy rapport with Wyle making for a great double-act.  The script was wonderful whenever we find another one of his cousins, fully aware that Cousin Earl being Asian or Cousin Horace being white was not at all curious to say the least. 

Newhart is an American treasure, and his Judson has a new level of mystery.  Could he be the mythical Yahuda, the first Librarian who fought in the Crusades?  Judson tells Flynn the idea that he is over a thousand years old is 'a little insulting', but given the extent of his powers (he can appear to Flynn in almost any shape and apparently able to teleport freely) does make things curious.  Curtin too is delightful in her horror at having to spend way too much on a Ming vase, but she is allowed to show a little vulnerability when she visits Flynn to advise a real vacation. 

There were probably a few things Curse of the Judas Chalice might have done slightly better.  The idea that Professor Lazlo wasn't who he said he was I think was pretty obvious from the get-go.   The entire 'Russians want to take over the world' plotline I think was dropped a bit early on.  Finally, we keep playing fast and loose with continuity.  In Curse of the Judas Chalice, Flynn states he's 33.  It's possible given that in Return to King Solomon's Mines he had celebrated his 32nd birthday, but I still argue he should have been closer to Wyle's real age of 37 at the time COTJC premiered.

However, on the whole the entire Librarian franchise is meant to be a mix of action/adventure, fantasy, and comedy.  We can see this when we see Flynn's vision: as Simone beckons him, he is in bed...wearing a nightcap and nightshirt.   At one point one of the Russian thugs says, "How you going to think your way out of this, book boy?"

NEVER underestimate a Librarian...



Next Librarian Story: And the Crown of King Arthur/Sword in the Stone


  1. So looking forward to #LibrariansS2 of The Librarians.. i do love the Trilogy and the series.. a fun filled .. hour of television for the whole family.. who doesnt love that? Just what we need on tv now-a-days and am sorry for those folks.. who don't give the series a chance.. and don't get the FX is just perfect for the show and as Dean Devlin who had done The Librarian Trilogy and the series both..wants it.. Thanks for sharing.. I will be watching Season 2 of The Librarians.. and hopefully they will re-air the trilogy as well!

  2. I too am looking forward to The Librarians, which has done an excellent job of balancing action w/fantasy and comedy.

    A Librarians Marathon w/both the movies and the First Season is a good idea and hopefully TNT will do that to reintroduce the franchise to newcomers.

  3. I watched the first two films when they aired years ago, but I only just recently watch this one, and I agree, it was all around fun, and Wyle is a very fun actor to watch. With Falling Skies ending, I wonder if he will play a larger role on the next season of The Librarians. By the way, I reviewed the series today as per the reader's choice.


    1. I agree on Wyle: he's made Flynn a fantastic character and do wonder whether he'll play a larger role next season. It would be good but the dynamic w/in the cast is so good I wonder whether he'll add or detract from it.


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Thank you.