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MOVIE REVIEW : Faith and Be Gory, ‘Leprechaun 2' Better Than the First

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The 1992 original “Leprechaun” proved that if you’ve got a good enough gimmick you can get away with minimal proficiency in all other aspects of a film. The gimmick was, of course, a leprechaun from hell, a diminutive figure with an evil simian countenance and a crazed sense of humor as jaunty as his quaint period attire. He was played with unstinting panache by British actor Warwick Davis.

“Leprechaun 2" has it all over the first film, for its makers have been smart enough to plow back profits from the original into a better script, stronger cast and richer production values. This time all the elements are much nearer Davis’ own bravura level.

*

Once again the Leprechaun is enraged over one missing gold coin, but this time he’s also concerned with getting married and starting a family, heaven forbid. In a prologue set in Ireland a millennium earlier a father, who’d been foolish enough to be tempted by the Leprechaun’s pot of gold, has sacrificed his own life to spare his daughter from becoming the Leprechaun’s bride.

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Now the Leprechaun has tracked down that daughter’s direct descendant, a pretty teen-ager named Bridget (Shevonne Durkin) who lives in L.A. and whose enterprising boyfriend Joe (Charlie Heath) works for his shrewd but boozy uncle Morty (Sandy Baron), the proprietor of Darkside Tours, one of those tourist magnets that purport to guide you to the sites where Hollywood celebrities died, preferably in a macabre fashion.

“Leprechaun 2" unfolds in a classically mythical manner with the young suitor determined to save his lady fair from a fate worse than death. Faced with an inevitable plot, writer Turi Meyer and Al Septien have balanced with considerable humor, well-drawn and engaging characters and some smart one-liners.

Heath and Durkin are a totally believable, down-to-earth young couple coping gamely with horrendous supernatural events. Best of all, Meyer and Septien have written one of the best movie roles ever for Baron, that protean veteran who’s perfectly cast as an outrageous yet endearing sharpie, a relentless con man with a Charles Bukowski seediness and street smarts who nonetheless genuinely loves his orphaned nephew.

“Leprechaun 2" is especially gratifying for us longtime Sandy Baron admirers. Although not for little kids, “Leprechaun 2" in its gore is in the theatrical, comically obvious Grand Guignol tradition. Its pace never flags, thanks to director Rodman Flender, a Roger Corman alumnus.

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* MPAA rating: R, for violence and nudity. Times guidelines: Its violence, although of a tongue-in-cheek variety, is too graphic for youngsters; there is also one scene with a bare-breasted woman. * ‘Leprechaun 2'

Warwick Davis: The Leprechaun

Charlie Heath: Cody

Shevonne Durkin: Bridget

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Sandy Baron: Morty

A Trimark Pictures release. Director Rodman Flender. Producer Donald P. Borchers. Executive producer Mark Amin. Screenplay Turi Meyer, Al Septien, based on characters created by Mark Jones. Cinematographer Jane Castle. Editors Richard Gentner, Christopher Roth. Leprechaun makeup created by Gabe Z. Bartalos. Visual effects supervisor Paolo Mazzucato. Costumes Meta Jardine. Music Jonathan Elias. Production designer Anthony Tremblay. Art director Claire Kaufman. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.


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