The Fairy King of Ar (1998) — Fairies, gold, and the cure for emphysema

“Only death lives here!”

Justin’s rating: Fairy bad stuff

Justin’s review: The opening of any kids movie needs to be front-loaded with something exciting to grab the attention of young minds addicted to instant gratification. An explosion or bank robbery, perhaps! Maybe a battle between the forces of G.I. Joe and Cobra around the Statue of Liberty! Or, if you’ve gotten lost and ventured into The Fairy King of Ar (AKA Beings), five solid minutes of an old lady reading a fairy tale book to two disinterested children.

Oh, it gets better from there. And by “better,” I mean “so much worse.”

Now that grandma has kicked the bucket, her family moves into her old English cottage. Mind you, the film tells us that grandma hadn’t lived here for 40 years, yet it’s fully furnished and landscaped by a Scottish caretaker played by some nobody named Malcolm McDowell. Aside from the caretaker weirdly getting aggressive toward the kids right out of the gate, the weirdest thing about this cottage is that it’s the home of a whole bunch of fairies. And these aren’t your typical, down-low fairies, either. These suckers are right out there in broad daylight, buzzing any human that comes into their radius with mid-1990s bad CGI.

Oh, and did I mention that grandma’s old house also sits on top of an abandoned gold mine filled with imprisoned fairies and goblin jailors? I wouldn’t think that this would make a good prison for the fairy folk, as there are plenty of mason jars in the world, but you do you, film.

As the kids uncover the great secrets (i.e., more fairies) of grandma’s cottage, they also are racing against time to find a magical cure for their dad (Corben Bernsen), who has terminal movie disease (TMD). This brother-and-sister pair are typically unconvincing ’90s stereotypes who are so matter-of-fact about the realization that there’s a fairy world that you’ll be cheering McDowell on as he berates them at the drop of the hat for everything.

There’s a certain manic energy that pervades much of Fairy King of Ar, especially from the dying dad, who appears to be packing in the rest of a lifetime of living into two days of running about uncovering gold mines and draining ponds. He doesn’t seem to notice that his wife has the most atrocious (and nebulous) accent ever, because who needs the comforting embrace of a spouse when Thar Be Gold In Those Hills! He’s the sort of guy that goes from “Huh there’s a gold mine?” to “LET’S DRAIN A POND WHY NOT” in about two minutes flat.

Despite this film looking like it was filmed at a five-star rated Airbnb, all of the British townsfolk keep acting like this cottage is sitting on the gates of hell. There’s more pointed warnings from colorful figures than in any opening from a Friday the 13th movie. Death! Evil! Terror from below! Don’t go into the miiiiiine! Off with ye, ye rapscallion!

They stop just shy of waving fingers and going “OOGA BOOGA,” but you totally know they wanted to.

When you’re not trying to coax your eyebrows down to a normal resting position while watching this flick, you’ll be wondering why Malcolm McDowell would agree to be in something this weirdly banal. Maybe he thought that the gold mine was an actual thing, because McDowell has always had a Scrooge McDuck obsession.

Yes, The Fairy King of Ar is pure cheese from start to finish, but I’m hesitant to write it off entirely. It’s stupid to the point of being very funny, and there’s a bit of a Goonies spirit to the latter part where the kids explore the mine. So when you want to treat yourself to some late ’90s cheese, scoop up a generous helping of this film. Bad for the body, but it’s hard not to gorge on it even still.

Didja notice?

  • Why not have the entire movie read to you out of a book like Reading Rainbow?
  • Guess fairies aren’t that worried about staying hidden in this movie, considering that one keeps buzzing a car like an angry bird
  • Name dropping Stephen King into a bright shiny kids picture
  • Nothing like a Scottish man lunging out of nowhere to grab your kids
  • What a horrible picture!
  • Church priests get very angry when people come around asking about property information
  • And now the caretaker says he’s grandma’s cousin
  • Draining a pond takes a hose and…. well, I guess just a hose. He doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.
  • These goodnights take forever
  • Grandma’s cottage has a goofy knocker
  • It might be hard to drown in two feet of water, but boy does this kid try his hardest
  • How many times can this kid wake up from a dream?
  • The out-of-the-blue bike chase scene that goes on forever

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