The Luck of the Irish (2001)


USA. 2001.


Director – Paul Hoen, Teleplay – Mark Edward Edens & Andrew Shepard Price, Story – Andrew Shepard Price, Producer – Don Schain, Photography – Robert Steadman, Music – Christopher Brady, Visual Effects Supervisor – Christopher Decristo, Visual Effects – CBS Animation, Special Effects Supervisor – Vaughn Williams, Production Design – Michael Novotny. Production Company – Disney/Just Singer Entertainment


Ryan Merriman (Kyle Johnson), Henry Gibson (Reilly O’Reilly), Timothy Omundson (Seamus McTiernan), Marita Geraghty (Katie Johnson), Glenndon Chatman (Russell Holloway), Alexis Lopez (Bonnie Lopez), Paul Kierman (Bob Smith Johnson)


Teenager Kyle Johnson has an incredible run of luck in life – always managing to pot hoops whenever he throws a ball, always getting the right answers when he randomly ticks the multi-choice questions on an exam paper and frequently finding money on the pavement. The school is about to celebrate students’ cultural heritages but Kyle’s parents have always avoided talking about what country they come from. Kyle then sees the symbol from the lucky coin he wears being displayed on the advertisement for an Irish cultural festival being run by Seamus McTiernan and attends the festival. The next morning at school, he discovers that his luck has suddenly left him – moreover, that he is shrinking and developing pointy ears. Back home, his mother has shrunken to a foot tall and is talking with an Irish accent. She tells him that she comes from a family of leprechauns. The lucky gold coin that he wears has been stolen and a fake substituted, depriving the family of their good luck and the magic that allows them to exist as humans. She believes that the coin was stolen by her father Reilly O’Reilly, who disowned her after she married a human. Kyle contrives to sneak into the potato chip factory that Reilly owns but discovers that it was not he but Seamus (who is a leprechaun too) that stole the coin. Together, Kyle and his grandfather team up to get the coin back.

The Luck of the Irish (1948) was a modestly appealing fantasy comedy. Not that well remembered today, it starred Tyrone Power as an American who has his life turned around when he encounters a leprechaun on a trip to Ireland. This version of The Luck of the Irish was a movie made for the Disney Channel. It should be noted that beyond the title and both being comedies that feature leprechauns, neither film has any connection whatsoever.

Disney’s The Luck of the Irish has been designed as no more than a throwaway effort. It is an extraordinarily silly film – one that seems to barely be taking a single thing that happens seriously. Most of the film is concentrated around lots of frenetic slapstick involving car chases or running around the potato chip factory. Henry Gibson and Marita Geraghty both give wildly over the top performances. Eventually it pans out to another fantasy cliche – the sports fantasy, wherein the hero is deprived of his magical abilities that have given him a boost throughout and must win the crucial big game based solely on his natural talent.

Irish culture is pastiched with a giddy silliness. That said, though the film nominally touches base with Irish culture, it only feels like tourist postcard Ireland, represented by leprechauns, clovers, Celtic games and … Riverdance (1995). (More controversial issues like religious differences and sectarian violence, even whether the family’s heritage lies in Northern or Southern Ireland, is left entirely unmentioned). It should be pointed out that despite the film’s Irish focus, we never actually visit Ireland. What one has is less a celebration of Irish culture than, as the rather sickly recitation of This Land is Your Land (1940) as the film fades out, shows, a fixation on the American preoccupation with finding one’s identity through tracing cultural roots.

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