Director – Ted Nicolaou, Screenplay – Ted Nicolaou & Michael McGann, Based on an Idea by Charles Band, Producers – Oana & Vlad Paunescu, Photography – Adolfo Barto’li, Music – Richard Kosinski, William Levine & John Zereizke, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jim Aupperle, Leprechaun Effects – Mark Rappaport, Makeup Effects – Michael S. Deak, Production Design – Radu Corciova. Production Company – Moonbeam Entertain’ment
John Bluthal (Michael Dennehy), Grant Cramer (John Dennehy), Sharon Lee Jones (Sarah Dennehy), Gregory Edward Smith (Mikey Dennehy), Erica Nicole Hess (Mela’nie Dennehy), Godfrey James (King Kevin), Tina Martin (Queen Maeve), Sylvester McCoy (Flynn), James Ellis (Patrick), Mihai Niculescu (Dr Voyzniac)
The aging Michael Dennehy runs tours of Fairy Hill at his ancestral castle in Ireland. What the tourists do not realize is that the leprechauns he talks about are real and that Michael is a good friend of the leprechaun king Kevin. Michael then discovers surveyors assessing the grounds, claiming to be sent by his son John. Michael calls John, who insists that this is a mistake, and invites Michael to come and visit the family in Denver. King Kevin, along with his two servants Patrick and Flynn and the fairy queen Maeve, decide to come too and hide in Michael’s suitcase. However, John has only invited Michael over so that he can send the surveyors in in his absence, intending to demolish the castle and build a theme park. The leprechauns proceed to cause havoc in the family house in Denver, unable to be seen by those who do not believe in them. Michael tries to persuade John’s wife and children to believe so they can see the leprechauns. However, when a neighbouring psychologist sees Michael apparently talking to thin air, he thinks that he is mad and tries to have him committed.
This was another of the children’s film released by the Band family, father and son Albert and Charles, under their Moonbeam label. The Bands were the force behind other prolific low-budget production companies such as Empire and Full Moon Productions. Moonbeam was a short-lived subsidiary they created specifically for making low-budget children’s films. Other Moonbeam entries included the Prehysteria! series begun with Prehysteria! (1993) and the excruciating Pet Shop (1995). Leapin’ Leprechauns is one of the few Moonbeam entries that even approaches the mildly worthwhile – Moonbeam’s best moments were the lovely Dragonworld (1994) and the demented Magic in the Mirror (1996), both also from director Ted Nicolaou.
Leapin’ Leprechauns! takes more than a small amount of inspiration from the Disney classic Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – John Bluthal’s character and performance is modelled after Albert Sharpe’s performance in the title role and the climax with the coming of Finvara is almost taken wholesale from the arrival of the Costa Bower at the end of Darby O’Gill. Most of the antics with the leprechauns pushing food around the table and going berserk in a children’s playground in speeded-up camera action are silly.
Nevertheless, the predictable story arc the film conducts – in getting the family and self-interested Grant Cramer to believe in leprechauns – is a likeable one. There are some nice performances – John Bluthal gives one of engaging blarney charm, while Sharon Lee Jones is good as the wife as are Gregory Edward Smith and Erica Nicole Hess as the children. There is the odd amusing line – John Bluthal to Gregory Edward Smith: “How about a game of horseshoes?” “That’s a little low-tech for my generation.” The effects work is sparingly conducted – the little people and normal-sized humans are rarely seen in the same shot – but these few effects scenes are conducted with more conviction than usual in most Band films. Particularly good is the climax, which is unusually dark with its images of black puka horses come as harbingers of death, the cloud of Finvara gathering the sky above and Death riding on top of the speeding car coming to collect them as they lie crashed.
Ted Nicolaou, the Bands and most of the cast, excepting Grant Cramer and Sharon Jones as the parents, returned with a sequel Leapin’ Leprechauns! 2 (1996), which is actually a better film than this.
Ted Nicolaou’s other genre films as director include:- one of the segments of The Dungeonmaster (1984), TerrorVision (1986), Bad Channels (1992), Subspecies (1991), Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993), Remote (1993), Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994), Dragonworld (1994), Magic in the Mirror (1996), Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play (1996), Vampire Journals (1997), The Shrunken City (1998), Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998), Dragonworld: The Legend Continues (1999), Ragdoll (1999), The Horrible Dr Bones (2000), In the Shadow of the Cobra (2004), Puppetmaster vs Demonic Toys (2004) and The Etruscan Mask (2007).