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Film / The Luck of the Irish

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The Luck of the Irish is a 2001 Disney Channel Original Movie. It stars Ryan Merriman as Kyle Johnson, who is dealing with the upcoming Heritage Day festival and trying to figure out what the heritage of his own family is. He loses his lucky coin in the process, comes upon his grandfather, starts turning into an actual leprechaun, and ends up making a bet with an evil leprechaun to get his lucky coin back.

Also stars Timothy Omundson as Seamus Mctiernen, the antagonist of the film.

Not to be confused with the 1948 film of the same name.


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This telefilm contains examples of:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Seamus embodies the trope as part of his grand plan to steal the lucky coins of every Leprechaun clan in America, gaining all the luck and power that comes with them, to become the "King of Leprechauns". He's also an Evil Reactionary in that he wishes to revert American Leprechauns back to their original smaller forms, where he expects the regular humans will discriminate and banish them from the American homeland to Ireland like their forefathers were from Ireland to America, and enslave all Leprechauns once they are banished to Ireland and restore the "Old Ways".
  • An Aesop: The overall message of the film is that one should never reject their heritage or their current cultural identity, but embrace and tolerate both as they are both parts of you, especially in a land formed by immigrants such as America.
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  • The Bet: In the second half of the film, Seamus and Kyle make a bet that if the latter beats the former in sports, he can have his lucky coin back; otherwise, Seamus keeps it. It's not entirely clear who's judging the first competition; no neutral third party is shown, and it's not likely that Seamus would judge fairly. For example, he clearly doesn't think that Kyle's break-dancing counts as step, and yet Kyle wins that round.
  • Born Lucky: Kyle is a popular junior high basketball player, gets good grades by guessing answers, and often finds money on the ground because of the lucky gold coin he wore his whole life. This trope is also deconstructed, as Kyle's insane luck only comes from his gold coin, and when he loses the coin, he loses all of that luck. He then realizes that he doesn't actually know how to do anything without having his luck to fall back on, especially in the area of basketball, where he went from the team's star player to missing every shot he takes.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: When Kyle's grandfather and mother Kate continue their feud, Kate brings up how her father's rejection of her American husband led her to run away and raise her children as Americans with Heritage Disconnect in secret, while her father brings up how she raised her children with no knowledge of their heritage and caused the circumstances that led to the family luck being stolen. Kyle argues both have solid points but they are ancient history and should be absolved to deal with present problems.
  • By the Hair: Seamus captures Kyle's grandfather by grabbing his beard at one point. According to Seamus, no Leprechaun can escape having their facial hair grabbed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's mentioned that when Kyle's mom, Kate, had told her father, Reilly, about her then fiancé, that he had misheard her state he came from Éire (the Irish word for "Ireland") when in fact it was Erie as in Lake Erie, Cleveland. Read Exact Words for more.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • If Kyle's parents have just told him his mom's side of the family is from Ireland, then he wouldn't have become suspicious and sneak behind their backs to find out why they're so determined to keep it a secret, which led to his lucky coin being stolen. Then again, his parents realize their mistake not telling him the whole truth in the first place.
    • Conversely, they also don't tell him where his father's side hails from. Nothing more than "Cleveland" is stated as to where they're from when his side of the family would be from somewhere in Europe.
  • Crappy Carnival: Kyle and Russ investigate an Irish carnival that is basically set up to showcase Seamus. This is where Kyle loses his lucky coin, which also happens to be a family heirloom.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Reilly wasn't happy with his daughter's choice in a husband at first, mainly because he believed his daughter lied to him into thinking her husband would be from Ireland, then she took the family's lucky coin and went into hiding to raise children ignorant of their Irish heritage. He learns to accept Bob in the end, though.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The movie begins with Kyle having a nightmare where he's so tiny that no one can see him onstage and accidentally gets stepped on by Bonnie. Later in the film, he finds out that without his lucky coin, he will indeed eventually shrink as he changes into a leprechaun like his mother.
  • Eagle Land: Solid Type 1. Despite some allusions to bigotry and prejudice, America is portrayed by many including the Irish as a Land of Opportunity where people from all walks of life coming from harsh conditions can work their way up to success and is often touted with pride by various characters. In the end, the entire cast sings "This Land Is My Land" to show their Patriotic Fervor.
  • Evil Counterpart Race: In the film, the Far Darrig, an evil type of Leprechaun, are this to Leprechauns in general. Unlike conventional Leprechauns who are generally friendly and harmless, Far Darrigs like Seamus are vicious and powerful tricksters who swindle and steal from others.
  • Evil Redhead: When he starts losing the basketball game, Seamus's hair turns red.
  • Exact Words: Seamus pulls this on Kyle in the bet when they tie, saying that he was supposed to beat him and a tie isn't considered such; he also says that he might let Kyle's grandfather go. After the bet, he points out that he could just as easily keep him as his slave forever, since "might" doesn't constitute a definitive statement, which leads into the last bet and the climax of the movie: Kyle gets even as the terms of the last bet was that if he won, Seamus would be sent back to Erie. Seamus assumes the stupid American means Éire and even mocks him on the pronunciation.
    Seamus: Would you at least learn to say it? The land of your forefathers isn't Erie, it's Éire.
    Kyle: [smirks] My father's from Cleveland. [cue Oh, Crap! from Seamus as he shrinks to his Leprechaun form and is blasted to Lake Erie] "To live forever within the shores of Lake Erie." Sure hope he can swim better than he plays basketball.
  • Fiery Redhead: After Kyle loses his lucky coin, his mother reverts to this.
  • Foreign Remake: An Indian remake of this film, titled Luck Luck Ki Baat, aired on the country's local version of Disney Channel in 2012.
  • The Gambling Addict: The Far Darrig are implied to be this, or at least just Seamus, as Kyle's grandfather mentions making wagers and bets are an easy way to get what you want from them provided you have something worthwhile to wager.
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: At the beginning of the movie, Kyle is having a nightmare where he's so tiny that nobody can see him onstage. Bonnie, who looks absolutely ginormous compared to him, then accidentally steps on him, which we see from his point of view.
  • Good Luck Charm: The O'Reilly family coin is one for the whole clan, providing them stable fortune and good luck for centuries, while also allowing them to masquerade as humans. It's implied the same applies for every other Leprechaun clan with a lucky coin. If the coin is stolen, the entire clan reverts back to their Leprechaun forms and becomes cursed with bad luck.
  • Gold Fever: Happens to the grandfather after entering the antagonist's traveling van and coming upon the treasure chest of stolen gold coins. Kyle talks him out of stealing all of the gold coins and just take theirs.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Kyle, who's half-Leprechaun.
  • Hidden Depths: Bonnie can play basketball well and really wants to try out, but her dad wants her to focus on her studies to get a good scholarship. Kyle's grandfather finds out about this and tells her father that his potato chip factory is willing to give her a full scholarship, as long as she plays some sort of sport. Her father immediately says that she's trying out for basketball.
  • Hybrid All Along: The plot of the film involves Kyle discovering he's half Leprechaun. As a result of losing his family's lucky coin, he and his mother begin to physically transform, though his transformation is a lot slower due to his human blood.
  • I Have No Son!: When Kyle first comes to his grandfather's potato chip factory, he explains who he is to the security guard. However, the guard tells him that his grandfather claims that he doesn't have a grandson. While it could be assumed that he simply might not know about Kyle (having been estranged from his daughter for decades), after finally meeting Kyle, he immediately recognizes him (he previously met him at the carnival).
    Reilly O'Reilly: Better not bake this one boys. I think it's me grandson.
  • Immigrant Parents:
    • The case for Kyle's grandfather, who came over to the United States from Ireland. It seems his mother may have been actually born in America, while his father is from Cleveland, Ohio. The latter fact becomes somewhat of a plot point, on account of it being used early on by his parents to obfuscate his Irish (and Leprechaun) heritage.
    • Bonnie's father has a strong Spanish accent, implying that he came over from South of the Border.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Kyle's mother is a pureblood Leprechaun and his father is an American human. This is the reason why his mother and grandfather have a strained relationship.
    • Later, Kyle and Bonnie start dating, although that can be called "interspecies" with a stretch, since he's half-human.
  • Involuntary Dance: Kyle breaks into uncontrollable tap dancing upon hearing Irish music twice; once at a carnival, and again when his grandfather plays a flute.
  • Large Ham: Seamus McTiernan. I am the saint of the step!!!
  • Leprechaun: Kyle is part leprechaun due to his mother being one. Kyle learns this after seeing his mother has shrunken.
  • Megaton Punch: Despite being shrunken, Kyle's mom gives a good swing at her father.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Kyle lost his first game (due to losing his coin), Bonnie wanted to apologize to him, thinking she somehow jinxed him after their argument.
  • No Ontological Inertia: After Kyle loses the coin, the magic that was keeping the O'Reilly's human starts to wane. Kyle notices his hair getting redder, his ears becoming more pointed, and he starts talking in an Irish accent. His mother shrinks to the standard size of a Leprechaun. His grandfather gets hit with this the worst, as he begins to start to show his rightful age by growing a long beard. They also begin losing their luck as well.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Kyle's mother is estranged from her father, as he didn't want her to marry a human, much less an American.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Kyle is prone to breaking into an Irish accent after he loses his coin. Justified, though, as he's part Leprechaun.
    • Subverted with the cast as a majority of them aren't really Irish. However, Henry Gibson, who played the grandfather, was of Irish decent, making him the closest thing to an Irish actor in the movie.
      Kyle: Does Mom look a wee bit... I said "a wee bit".
      Bob: [averting his eyes] Yeah, you did.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Seamus feels this is his fate, as he misinterprets Kyle's terms of their bargain "to live forever in the land of my father, in Lake Erie" as "in Lake Eire". Instead of living in Ireland, he's shocked to learn that Kyle's dad's from Cleveland, and he screams in defiance as he's transported literally into Lake Erie.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Seamus: GIVE! ME! THE! BALL!!
  • Rags to Riches: Kyle's grandfather came to America as a lowly kitchen cook who managed to create potato chips by slicing potatoes to thin and making them with help from his lucky coin, turning it into a lucrative business.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Kyle's grandfather is suggested to be at least 80 years old and probably quite a lot older than that, despite looking more like he is in his 60's. He claims to have accidentally invented the potato chip, to give you an idea.
    • It is never admitted if Seamus is this trope as well, but given the sheer collection of gold coins he has, this could also be the case for him as well.
    • Kyle's great-grandmother is also mentioned to be alive and "healthy as a horse".
    • Kyle's mom is implied to be older than she looks, since she seems to remember the prejudice the Irish had suffered in those days. Which she used as a reason why she didn't tell Kyle before.
  • Redhead In Green: Most of the Leprechauns, who have red hair, tend to wear/own something green.
  • Red Herring: Kyle and his parents assume his grandfather stole his coin as petty revenge for Kate marrying a human. Even after Reilly tells them the true culprits, Kyle's parents don't believe him. When Reilly calls Kate out for assuming the worst of him, she just punches him, saying they don't need his help, as she's still angry at him from their last fight.
  • Repetitive Name: Reilly O'Reilly.
  • The Resenter: Bonnie Lopez to Kyle, for always being so lucky at everything without ever really working hard for them like she does.
  • Separated by a Common Language: A variation. After losing his lucky coin, Kyle has a disastrous basketball game, which his parents watch. Since his mother has already started turning back into a leprechaun, her speech is peppered with Irish words. She tells Kyle that he "should be hurlin'". Kyle assumes she means "throwing up" and tells her he's not sick, he just had a bad game. She actually means the traditional Irish sport called hurling (which Kyle ends up playing later in the film).
  • Shout-Out: As his ears become pointier, Kyle yelps that he's "turning into a Vulcan".
  • Songs of Solace: The O'Reilly Leprechauns like Kyle's mother and grandfather play songs with instruments to voice their despair in times of duress. Kyle's grandfather chocks this up to being an Irish habit.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Seamus and his comrades sing "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" in the restaurant when they are celebrating their capture of the coins. This song, where each verse (excluding the first, which provides background) details how a returning soldier had been maimed and crippled in a war, is quite tragic, and wouldn't be many people's choice for a celebratory song. Especially (you would think), not people who are characters in lighthearted Disney movies. The scene cuts away before the grim parts start at least.
  • Sore Loser: Seamus. He keeps his word and returns the coin, but tries to dampen the victory by claiming he has more stolen ones stashed away and swears revenge on Kyle's family. Luckily the terms of the bet put a stop to that.
  • St. Patrick's Day Episode: The film is about fifteen-year-old basketball player Kyle Johnson using a supposedly lucky gold charm and then finding out he's a leprechaun on his mother's side. The main antagonist of the film is an evil leprechaun named Seamus McTiernen.
  • Take That!: When Russell notices Kyle's hair is a shade of red (the start of his transformation into a leprechaun), he says he wishes he can dye his hair too but his dad "has a thing against Dennis Rodman".
  • Token Trio: Irish-American Kyle Johnson, his African-American best friend Russ Halloway, and his Hispanic love interest Bonnie Lopez.
  • Tournament Arc: Used as the backdrop as Kyle and his best friend Russ are both on the junior high school basketball team. They eventually make it to the state championship, which is utilized as part of the final bet.
  • Villain Has a Point: A minor one, but when Kyle questions if the sports he is competing against Seamus with are real sports, an offended Seamus incredulously questions him how he can know nothing of his culture.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Seamus when Kyle regains his confidence and begins beating him in the basketball tournament. He actually goes One-Winged Angel, changing into his far more darrig form, ranting all the while that he can't be beaten.
  • The X of Y: The Luck of the Irish
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: Bonnie learns the hard way about discussing discrimination with your Token Black Friend in what may be one of the most retrospectively awkward jokes ever to come out of a Disney movie.
    Bonnie: When the Irish came to America, things were tough, and they had to work at jobs that other people wouldn't take, and they didn't get paid what they deserved...
    Russell: Well, at least they got paid.
    [Kyle's dad nods in agreement]

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