“Try as they will, and try as they might, who steals me gold won’t live through the night.”
The Scoop: 1993 R, written and directed by Mark Jones, and starring Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, and Mark Holton
Tagline: Her luck just ran out.
Summary Capsule: A vengeful leprechaun in search of “me gold” terrorizes pasty, hapless humans.
Al’s rating: Um… something something [short joke] something something [bad luck]
Al’s review: Leprechaun is one of those movies that everybody in my generation has heard of, but most people haven’t actually seen. Every single one of us found it in the video store, and every single one of us picked up the box out of curiosity, but every single one of us also put it back because we decided we would never spend money on it.
Every single one of us except for me, apparently, who purchased Leprechaun and owns it on DVD. I offer no excuse, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The premise is simple: After a visiting businessman captures a Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) on a trip to Ireland and steals his pot of gold, he returns to America only to discover that he didn’t come back alone. Ten years later, the businessman’s long-abandoned, ramshackle house has been purchased as a summer home by good-dude-dad, J.D. Redding (John Sanderford). J.D. arrives with his snobby California Girl daughter, Tory (Jennifer Aniston), to begin renovations alongside Three Guys Who Paint: mild but hunky Nathan (Ken Olandt), annoying moppety Alex (Robert Gorman), and mentally retarded Ozzie (Mark Holton). In no time flat, of course, the Leprechaun has been unleashed once again into the world and is hell-bent on getting back his long-lost gold. Like I said, pretty simple. Also, pretty stupid. Really, really pretty stupid.
I don’t fault Leprechaun for it’s stupidity, though. This is a movie from a different era. If someone woke up tomorrow with the idea for an angry leprechaun horror flick, it would become a mildly funny Family Guy joke or an incredibly successful Youtube video. In 1993, however, there was no choice but Lights, Camera, and 90 minutes of green, bearded, murdery Action.
What I can fault Leprechaun for, however, is everything else. Jennifer Aniston became famous shortly after this movie was released and she’s easily the most talented person here. Unfortunately, she’s a little too good at portraying snotty, snooty Tory. She’s prissy and whiney and spoiled, which is a perfectly acceptable for your heroine-in-training during Act One since she’s supposed to grow into someone worth rooting for by Act Five. In our movie, sadly, Tory just becomes prissy and whiney and spoiled and armed. Writers, repeat after me: shotguns are not character development.
The rest of the human cast can be categorized as Bland, Annoying, or About to Die. I’m trying to think of more to say about them, but, frankly, I’m drawing a blank. The Bland characters aren’t worth spending brainpower on, the Annoying characters get waaaay too much screentime, and the About to Die characters are only ever worth remembering if they kick off in an interesting way (spoiler: they don’t).
The Leprechaun himself is ugly and obnoxious instead of scary and funny. He spews one-liners and attacks with cackling glee, but he’s never imposing enough to be menacing and his puns are… well, they’re puns. Worst of all, the character doesn’t feel fun. He’s got the right look and he’s got all the silly Leprechaun gimmicks, but it all just feels desperate. It’s like the filmmakers know their villain isn’t very interesting, so they’re throwing around pogo sticks and tricycles in the hopes that you won’t notice.
Despite all of these flaws, I do want to give Leprechaun a little bit of credit for taking on the trope of the Trickster Fairy and getting it more right than wrong. Our society has done a good job mugging most of the world’s magical creatures and leaving them dazed and toothless. Genies, dragons, mermaids, dwarves, triple-digit packs of dogs–they’ve all been irreparably cutesyfied by the Disney meat grinder. Perhaps none of them have had it worse than fairies, though. You say “fairy” these days and most people will think of cute, blonde, pouty Tinker Bell. Now, Tink was kind of a miserable prat (she tries to get Wendy killed, if you recall), but even that is a far cry from the mischievous, cunning, life-ruining, havoc-wreaking fairies of the past. This is a movie about a vengeful fairy with a chip on its shoulder, happily playing with the lives of the humans who bumble in his way. I don’t really think this aspect of the movie is done well or with particular nuance, but, hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Amazingly, there are FIVE more movies in the Leprechaun franchise (FIVE!) plus a WWE-backed reboot due out later this year. So, does that mean this film is actually doing something right? Despite all the bad jokes, the lame pseudo-horror, and the painfully obnoxious characters, is there something buried in here that makes Leprechaun greater than the sum of its parts? I want to say maybe. I want to think that there’s something I missed. I do think it’s got some value as a relic of an era in horror flicks that was post-slasher but pre-Scream. I think, though, I’m gonna go with “Nah.” I’m sure those sequels exist for a reason, but I feel confident saying that there are better Holiday Horror movies, better Warwick Davis movies, and maybe even better Jennifer Aniston movies out there than this sad, strange little dead end.
- According to Warwick Davis, Leprechaun was originally conceived as a scary kids movie, but the studio thought it could play with adults, so inserts were filmed to increase the blood and violence.
- General Mills gave permission to include a joke involving a box of Lucky Charms cereal, but demanded the joke be removed when they saw the movie and didn’t like it. A replacement scene was filmed with a similar-looking generic cereal box.
- In passive-aggressive retaliation for General Mills rescinding their blessing (see above), one of the ‘hero’ lines at the end of the film was changed from “Your luck just ran out!” to “F*** you, Lucky Charms!”
- Leprechaun was the first film distributed by Trimark and was the film debut of Jennifer Aniston.
- A joke about Leprechaun is famously featured in Wayne’s World 2. The joke is almost certainly more widely known than this film was or ever will be.
[bouncing a pogo stick on a man’s chest]
Leprechaun: This old Lep, he played one. He played pogo on his lung.
Leprechaun: Try as they will, and try as they might, who steals me gold won’t live through the night.
Ozzie: What are you?
Leprechaun: What do I look like, me lad? See the hat? The buckles on me shoes? Why, I’m a Leprechaun!
[repeated, ad naseum]
Leprechaun: I NEED ME GOLD!
Ozzie: Help. Help. It’s happening. The attack is on. O’Grady farm. Uh, send help. The leprechaun is attacking. Army, Navy, guns, Marines, and we’re gonna need some medicine.
Tory: That thing is a leprechaun and we’ve gotta find a way to stop it!
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