Leprechaun 9: The Leprechaun Franchise
On a holiday where you’re movie marathon options are The Boondock Saints or Darby O’Gill and the Little People, I like to remind people of the gems of The Leprechaun franchise. None of which are particularly good, but do offer consistency of quality… sort of.
The obvious pot of gold in this franchise is the man himself, Warwick Davis. Say what you will about the films, (and you can say whatever you want about the last two), but Warwick never fails to deliver on his performance as the Genius of Killarney. Always on, always having fun, and always willing to sing a rhyme of dialogue, even if it makes no sense. He even raps with the assistance of his zombie fly girls. Yes, you read that right.
Despite valiant efforts by the man behind such performances as Willow Ufgood, Wicket the Ewok and numerous other characters in the Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Narnia franchises, the Leprechaun films still wax and wane from good to terrible like the Fast and Furious films. The most notable thing about Leprechaun is the appearance of Jennifer Aniston in the lead. She plays a spoiled city girl bratting her way through the movie. This is while Mark Holton (Francis from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) and Robert Hy Gorman (Walter from Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead) have a strange Of Mice and Men storyline that is too good for the movie it is in.
However, it isn’t the story that we watch these movies for. It’s the kills. Death by pogo stick and being run over by a Mad Max-inspired Mario Kart of death come to mind. It may be why Jennifer Aniston didn’t return to the franchise. Though Friends is over and Leprechaun movies are still being made. Time will tell if she missed the boat on that one.
The second film, possibly my favorite, is from Rodman Flender, the director of Idle Hands and the Tales From The Crypt episode where a psychic gorilla falls in love with Ernie Hudson. It’s a world where fairie glamour dazzled teens make out with lawnmowers, a barista is killed by his cappuccino machine’s steam valve, and the Leprechaun uses his Doctor Strange-like powers to kidnap his bride to be. Don’t worry – he’s thwarted by a Jeff Healey-looking kid and his ‘drunkle’ Morty. (Not Rick. In the movie the kid’s drunk uncle is actually named Morty.) This movie brings none of the lore back from the first film except the weird shoe fetish Leprechaun has and a steadily increasing wardrobe quality for our Nelwyn friend.
Like Fast and Furious, the films get worse before they get better. Leprechaun follows the sequel trope of changing the settings: backwoods, to the city, to space, and to ‘da hood.’ The only thing missing is a goes Hawaiian sequel, but my fingers are still crossed for that.
Leprechaun 3, the first straight-to-video film in the canon, fully accepts its campy roots to the point where it almost hurts the films. Almost. Many like the third film which is set in Vegas. It includes an exploding woman and a magician getting sawn in half during a magic-off battle with the Leprechaun. Many don’t. The gold coin is still up in the air on that one.
However, there is no gold in Leprechaun 4: In Space. This is a special treat. Trying really hard to be James Cameron’s Alien, it falls shorter than our star. Home Improvement’s Debbe Dunning stars. It has the most ridiculous sub-ending ever too. Basically, a German scientist cyborg uses the space princess’ blood to grow a body, but it backfires on him and he turns into a monster and wanders around until he gets blown up by a Space Marine. That’s a thing in these movies. It also has a Leprechaun lightsaber (green, of course), Giant-Man Leprechaun exploding in space, and some sweet Sega CD cut scene-quality special effects. It sounds like it should be good, but so did a Leprechaun reboot.
Then the pot of gold at the end of the Leprechaun rainbow, Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood emerged. They have characters that are tolerable and Warwick looks wicked dapper. The first ‘in the hood’ is as much a real movie as any in the franchise. A few too many cross-dressing gangsters for me and not enough leprechaun smoking the jazz cigarettes with Ice-T. The movie does seem to have found the tone for the franchise and wears it like a shiny buckle. This is especially true of the zombie fly girls assisting Lep with a rap song sequence.
The last two Leprechaun films, Leprechaun: Origins and Leprechaun Returns (respectively numbers 7 and 8 of the franchise), are not real IMHO. They don’t exist and are not worth the Netflix data they are streamed on. No Warwick. No Leprechaun. Meh.
These films are nostalgic guilty pleasures. Lep’s (lack of) lucky charm with women is a little off-putting. Basically, if there is a hashtag about it in the real world, it happens in these movies. It’s riddled with qualities we all love in our fictional characters but loathe in someone in the real world.
So, this weekend grab your favorite Irish whiskey and sit down with an old friend, the Leprechaun series. An old friend who swears a lot, drinks too much, isn’t politically correct, and probably won’t go home when you ask him to.
Maybe you should just watch Darby O’Gill.