Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Darby O'Gill Babysits The Children

It’s time for that monthly switcheroo with T.L. Bugg! I love these swaps for two reasons: 
1-It gives me a chance to read one of my very favorite blogger’s takes on movies I either love or just REALLY want other people to watch (giggle giggle Nutcracker In 3D)

2-It’s my monthly reminder to mail in my rent check. 
For this Very Special Shortening Swap, I assigned Zach 2008’s The Children, one of my favorite recent horror films from a certain subgenre I dig more than grilled cheese. He went in a very different, more child-friendly (and less child-killing) direction with 1959’s Darby O’Gill & the Little People.

not the right little people
Quick Plot: After an awesome credits sequence wherein Walt Disney writes a note thanking leprechauns, we meet the titular Darby, an eccentric Irish caretaker well known at his local tavern for telling tales involving little people. 

Nostalgia alert! Before the days of trivia night, there was the crazy old man obsessed with leprechauns to keep your beer tasting better.
One day, the owner of the estate Darby works on with his daughter Katie rides into town to force him into retirement. The time has come to replace the aging leprechaun lover with Michael McBride, a strapping young man from Dublin played with strange bland gentleness by Sean Connery. Darby isn't ready to tell Katie about the change and instead spends an evening hanging out with King Brian and a whole kingdom of very small, very energetic little people who live inside a magical mountain.

Let's get this out of the way: partying with leprechauns ROCKS. Literally and figuratively, since a) they dance like mad b) they're not shy about the beverages and c) little dudes really like rhyming games. If such a colony invited me to live out my last days on their wine and tunes, I wouldn't have to eat a bowl of Lucky Charms before signing the lease.
But Darby, bless his drunken heart, is a tad reluctant when King David tells him to stay forever, using his wiles to instead trick his old pal and return home to big people alcohol. The King follows him for AN ENTIRE NIGHT OF DRINKING, rendering him useless as a magician come the morning sun. 

As I try to work through the plot threads of Darby O'Gill & the Little People, I'm struck by how much goes on. Perhaps I've had a few too many Guinnesses myself because I'm several paragraphs into a synopsis and haven't even detailed Katie's inevitable relationship with James Bond, the token bad guy angling for Darby's job, the tavern filled with villagers thirsty for more leprechaun tales, King David's mildly sinister plan to further eff with Darby and his wishes, and the death-bringing banshee who figures prominently in the final act.

Got all that? No? Here, have some more stout.

Or whiskey.

Or wine.

Or Jim Bean, J&B, Zima, Tequiza, or whatever poison you prefer. Because I say this in true: Darby O'Gill is the most joyfully alcoholic kids film I've ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if an entire generation of Baby Boomers can look back to that sunny afternoon at the cinema as the turning point in their lives and livers. 

It's absolutely amazing.
Also, a super fun and charming fantasy! I'm a huge fan of children's entertainment that appeals--without pandering to--adult sensibilities (thus explaining my unadulterated adoration of all things Muppet), and Darby O'Gill is one of those remnants from a time past. Though the heavy Irish accents may confuse a few kids (self included), the film is colorful and cute enough to entertain the little ones while offering plenty of smart dialogue and likable relationships for their parents. It's almost the perfect family film, so long as your family isn't Mormon or dealing with alcoholism. 

And by the way, if I found a leprechaun right now, I'd use my first wish to get "It's almost the perfect film, so long as your family isn't Mormon or dealing with alcoholism" as a DVD box cover quote. A girl can dream...
High Points
I'm all for equal opportunity acting jobs for little people (Tiptoes, how you disgust/fascinate/thrill me) but as more recently seen in Elf, the forced perspective style to make the leprechauns, well, leprechaunish is genuinely charming

Apparently the film’s big singing number, “My Darling Irish Girl” was quite a hit, and not just because it maybe included the vocals of a future Highlander. As with most of the instrumental jigs, it’s a pretty darn catchy tune

Low Points
I know, I know: it was a different era in the world, but that doesn't make the threat “I'll throw you in a river and drown you like a kitten" any less disturbing

Lessons Learned
When you sup with the devil, you need a long spoon
Leprechauns have plenty of stamina, but drinking games are still an effective means of manipulating their gifts for your cause

Alcohol is great no matter how tall or short you are
The Winning Line
“Your heart’s as cold as a wet Christmas!”
Is it Albert Sharpe's delivery that makes this sound like the world's most felt insult? The unified gasp from the leprechauns when they hear it? Or really, is this just the greatest thing to ever say to anyone ever?

Darby O'Gill & the Little People is the kind of sunny and strange film I wish I knew of as a kid. It has catchy musical numbers, copious amounts of alcohol, James Bond, and leprechauns. Drunk leprechauns. Drunk leprechauns that don't want to kill you, they just want to dance! And drink. Did I mention drink? The DVD includes a few cute extras worth a gander though sadly, no alcohol. That's kind of shocking since just about every slide in the reel is soaked in stout. Did I mention there's some drinking in this movie? Sorry, I tend to repeat myself when I've had a few Guinnesses (Guinni?). What was I saying?

Right. Okay, so get wasted with Darby, then sober up with T.L. Bugg's review of a truly terrifying horror film. 

Then wash away the fear with more drinking. If you’re lucky, the leprechauns will bring the booze.


  1. Damn you for stealing my future blog post! I seriously love this flick. Even if its not horror, it contains enough ghostly elements to keep me riveted. But that's not even the main appeal of this movie. I want to adopt Darby O'Gill as my new grandfather, if only because my own drunken Irish Grandfather rode the coach long ago. Awesome post!

  2. There's plenty of room in this big world for both of us to drink with leprechauns!

    And man, Darby would be such a kickass gramps. Imagine a family reunion crashed by drunken leprechauns! Now I'm sad to not be Irish!