Cheesy Movies

Some of the movies I get from Netflix are unsuspected gems, but some of them are just silly. I like fantasy adventures, so I took a chance on a couple of for-TV movies from TNT. The series title is The Librarian.

Basically, they’re cheap knockoffs of Indiana Jones, with bits of supernatural spice thrown in. They’re aimed at 8th-grade viewers. What saves them, if anything does, is that you’re not supposed to take them seriously.

The first clue is that the supporting cast includes Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin. Newhart is sort of a cross between George Burns as God and Charlie in Charlie’s Angels. He’s the stay-at-home mastermind who sends the librarian out on dangerous quests.

The main reason this cheese is worth mentioning at all is a wonderful moment in the first movie. Something dangerous and mystifying has happened to the librarian, and he picks up the phone and calls his boss — Newhart. So then we get a profile shot of Newhart picking up the handset of an ornate, old-fashioned phone, and everyone who knows Newhart is bound to be thinking, “Oh, the phone bit.” And then … they don’t do the phone bit. I loved that.

Also, Newhart, who is at least 80 and looks it, gets to do a kung fu combat scene in which he knocks bad guys down and emerges unscathed. That was kind of fun too. And of course the way Jane Curtin can look deeply skeptical and disgusted without saying a word. Without the talents of those two venerable comedians, the Librarian movies would be worse than dreadful. As it is — I don’t mind stupid, if it’s fun.

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