As an Irish blogger I believe it’s important to keep abreast of all things Irish and cinema related. For some of us, that involves keeping up to date with Irish festivals or actually…watching Irish cinema. For others, it involves watching old silly movies with leprechauns in them and gorging on the sweet stereotypical goodness like a bowl of Lucky Charms. And yes, I know this has nothing to do with Halloween but I've been sitting on this one for a while and I might as well get rid of it now.
One such old, silly movie is 1999’s made-for-TV movie, The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns. You might wonder what might possess me to sit through such a film, but how can I be expected to resist an all-star cast that features Randy Quaid, Roger Daltrey, Colm Meaney, Macauley Culkin’s brother and most enticingly of all, Whoopi Goldberg as ‘The Grand Banshee’. If that doesn’t entice you to watch it…you probably have better taste than I do.
Quaid stars as Jack Woods, a beleaguered American businessman who wants to spend a nice, relaxing holiday in Ireland, a wonderful world which, as we all know, has no roads, everyone has horses and carts instead of cars, the town has only one telephone and electricity is a fanciful witchcraft that nobody uses. He rents a cottage in Kerry after being assured by the landlord that there are certainly no little people living there, which you think would arouse suspicion, although I suppose Jack has the excuse of jetlag. Once settled in, he partakes in traditional Irish activities, such as spying on a naked woman swimming outdoors, drinking poitín in his cottage and falling into unconsciousness.
The next morning, he rescues a small figure he chased out of his house from drowning in the nearby river. We are treated to the sight of Colm Meaney dressed as a leprechaun, rosey-cheeked and telling Randy Quaid that he is “a wet leprechaun…at your wet service” which briefly left me worried I was watching a different and much more disturbing type of film. The leprechaun introduces Jack to his family and tells him that since he saved his life, the leprechaun Seamus Muldoon owes Jack a debt. He will repay this debt over the course of the film by constantly scaring Jack and demanding favours from him.
Muldoon’s son Mick goes off to meet his friends, Jericho (played by Kevin McKidd, who obviously needed to fire whatever agent he was using after Trainspotting) young Barney (Kieran Culkin, of Scott Pilgrim fame) and Sean (who was on Ultimate Force but disappointingly isn’t Ross Kemp). They get into a fight with some fairies led by ‘Count Grogan’, which features a lot of stick-twirling and backflips. I’ve never heard any leprechaun stories that said they were all martial arts experts, but perhaps more research is required. The two sides don’t like each other because the fairies are self-serious, live in a lavish castle in the sky and are responsible for nature, while leprechauns are drunk idiots. Their dispute is referred to as a war but at this point in the movie it more closely resembles the spawn of a drunken tryst between Animal House and The Hobbit.
While taking pictures of the Irish countryside Jack comes across the home of the woman he was gawking at earlier. Obviously wanting to carry on his good first impression from earlier, he ‘accidentally’ photographs her and is chased away by her and her loutish brothers. Our dashing hero hides behind a priest in church to avoid them. The woman, Kathleen, later complains to the priest about Jack being a pervert, but the priest dismisses her serious accusation out of hand, which unfortunately makes that scene the most accurate representation of life in Ireland…but never mind that depressing thought, here’s Whoopi Goldberg dressed as a crow!
Whoopi the Grand Banshee warns the fairy royalty (including the king Roger Daltrey, who possibly just got lost in a drugged haze and found himself on set) that their war with the leprechauns must end, despite them complaining about Mickey and his friends throwing turnips at them. “I know they threw turnips! I’m all seeing, remember?” Academy Award winning actress Whoopi Goldberg says. The plot is kicked up a gear when Mickey and friends infiltrate a fairy party in disguise. The fairies at this party are all wearing masks with the big ears and unkempt red hair of a leprechaun, which is basically the fairy equivalent of blackface, making this just as much of a hate crime for the people in the film as it is for me watching it. Mickey dances with the princess and the two fall for each other even after she finds out that he’s a lazy, dirty leprechaun. They agree to keep seeing each other even though their two clans don’t get along. If you guessed that this is heading for a Romeo and Juliet knock-off, congratulations, you own a functioning brain.
Kathleen wants to compete against her brothers in a horse and cart race on the beach that the whole town is there to see. She isn’t allowed because she is a woman. Poor Kathleen is having a really hard time of it in this film, but luckily her stalker Jack is along to save the day, agreeing to take her place. He of course wins the race, thus teaching the sexist townspeople that a woman is perfectly capable of competing with men provided she gets another man to do it on her behalf. To top it off she then begins a romance with dear Jackie Boy, no doubt encouraged by the fact that he’s already seen her naked.
Romance is also blooming in the land of the little people as Mickey continues to see Princess Jessica. Unfortunately this causes a fight with the fairy from earlier, Grogan. Mickey won’t fight so his fried Sean does. Banshee Whoopi shows up and to demonstrate how fed-up she is with all the violence, she kills Sean. An angered Mickey then kills Tybalt. Sorry, I mean Grogan, sparking an all-out war between the leprechauns and the fairies. They end up so distracted that they can no longer care for Irish nature, which leads to dead flowers, unseasonal storms and constant rain. And so the great mystery of the Irish Summer is explained. It’s because of war between little magic people. Don’t let any fancy-pants scientist tell you otherwise.
A lot of what follows is very similar to the Lord of the Rings films. Sure it may lack the good acting and directing and stuff, but there is a lot of people in silly outfits running at each other shouting, so it’s almost the same. Princess Jessica is hidden in the fairies underwater palace. It’s strange that no one in Ireland notices all these dog kennel sized palaces the fairies have left lying around. Jack meanwhile has his own conflict to deal with. It turns out he’s not in Ireland on holiday at all but on business. His company wants to turn the land he’s been photographing into a holiday-park. I would think the Irish government might have something to say about this. He doesn’t want to do it, having fallen in love with Kathleen at some point in the last 24 hours. He asks her to come with him back to America. She asks him to stay in Ireland. He does. It’s all very romantic and interesting I assure you. Everything seems to be going great between them until she finds out about his previous plans, when she gets rid of him for lying to her. Oh well.
Kathleen’s brothers (including Peter Serafinowicz) go to beat up Jack for upsetting their sister but unfortunately we’re robbed of that sight as Jack and Seamus convince them to use their skills in thuggery to help train the leprechaun army. One would think an army should be trained before a war starts but I suppose they were too drunk to have thought of that. Mickey and the Princess are sick of all the violence that they have directly caused and so they enlist the help of Jack and Kathleen (I say enlist, they basically kidnap her) to talk to Whoopi the Grand Banshee and ask for help. Eventually making it to the Grand Banshee’s home, which is a hotel for some reason, they’re told that if they don’t stop the war, nature will die, which I thought they already knew but it really seems like everyone in the film is a little slow on the uptake.
Mickey and Jessica have finally had enough and have finished skimming a copy of Romeo and Juliet so they decide to die. Can’t say I blame them. They poison each other to try and force the two factions to give up fighting, instructing Kathleen to deliver them the antidote within ten minutes. Unfortunately, due to what can only be described as ‘fairy shenanigans’, she crashes her cart and the vial with the antidote is broken. This would be pretty awkward. Destroyed nature or not, if I broke the antidote I’d probably just shuffle off home out of embarrassment. Jack, for reasons I don’t really understand, jumps at her horse and falls over into a pit. I’ve watched it three times and I’m still not sure what it was meant to accomplish. He seems to have died, but the Grand Whoopi shows up and surprise! He was only winded. She gets the fairies and leprechauns to agree to peace because love or something and for good measure she brings everyone who died in the movie back from the dead. Except Grogan, because screw that guy, I guess. So everything works out. Mickey and Jessica get married so they’re happy, Jack and Kathleen reconcile and get married, so they’re happy, her brothers strike oil somehow so they’re happy and after a long 140 minutes this thing is finally over so I’m delighted. I’d do a little jig but it would make me too much like the people in this movie.
There are, unsurprisingly, better ways of spending your time than watching The Magical Land of the Leprechauns. If watching little people fighting is your thing, I suggest you watch some Mexican wrestling, or stare at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo for two hours. Stereotypical, goofy and faaaar too long, The Magical Land of the Leprechauns might be the worst leprechaun movie. If it wasn’t for the leprechaun horror movie series. But that’s a story for another day, tah be sure bejaysus begorrah!