A teenage boy begins shrinking, grows pointy ears and is inexplicably drawn to Irish step-dancing. Could he be . . . a leprechaun?
“The Luck of the Irish,” a new Disney Channel family film, fits in the earnest good-for-you category--hard work is better than relying on luck, and Americans are Americans no matter where they’re from (even if they’re leprechauns)--but it’s zany enough to be a hoot too.
Heritage Day is coming up at basketball star Kyle Johnson’s junior high, and event organizer and overachiever Bonnie Lopez (Alexis Lopez) is pressing him to participate. But when Kyle (Ryan Merriman) tries to find out about his family background, Mom (Marita Geraghty) and Dad (Paul Kiernan) are strangely uninformative. It isn’t until he loses his lucky coin, and Mom starts cooking Irish food over a peat fire and dwindling to the size of a Barbie doll, that Kyle learns the truth: Mom’s side of the family is of the leprechaun persuasion, and the lost coin is what holds “the luck of the O’Reilly clan” and maintains their human form.
The first suspect in the coin caper, Kyle’s estranged Grandpa (Henry Gibson), becomes Kyle’s ally in the pursuit of the real culprit, the mysterious Irish step-dancer Seamus, “Saint of the Step.” After the obligatory car chase, the final showdown for the coin takes place at the junior high basketball finals.
The quirky script from Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Edward Edens, from a story by Price, is amiably directed by Paul Hoen; the cast is uniformly appealing, including Glenndon Chatman as Kyle’s best pal. Merriman is refreshingly natural in his unnatural transformation from big man on campus to a pointy-eared nerd who’s not only getting shorter but lapsing into an Irish brogue; Gibson’s impishness is just right as Grandpa; and Lopez’s vivid screen presence mitigates somewhat the unsubtlety of the moral lessons that fall mostly to her to impart.
* “The Luck of the Irish” airs at 7 tonight on the Disney Channel. The network has rated it TV-G (suitable for all ages).