🍀 Leprechauns, luck, and looking inward 🍀

Actors Glenndon Chatman, Ryan Merriman, and Alexis Lopez pose for a picture together. Chatman, Merriman, and Lopez starred in the 2001 Disney Channel Original Movie “The Luck of the Irish.”

Actors Glenndon Chatman, Ryan Merriman, and Alexis Lopez pose for a picture together. Chatman, Merriman, and Lopez starred in the 2001 Disney Channel Original Movie “The Luck of the Irish.”

Every St. Patrick’s Day, we are reminded of the most iconic Disney Channel original movie to have ever graced the home television screen: “The Luck of the Irish.” “The Luck of the Irish” has it all: leprechauns, Irish dancing, questionable fashion choices, potato chip factories, and basketball. On the surface, this movie may look like nothing more than fun holiday entertainment, but deeper down the movie teaches many important lessons. The movie touches on accepting your heritage and cultural identity along with questioning what luck really means. 

As Heritage Day approaches at school, Kyle struggles to uncover the truth about his family background, having always been told that both his parents are from Cleveland, Ohio. Everyone else seems to feel concrete in their cultural identity. Kyle knows there is something amiss, that his parents are hiding something from him. With the only clue to guide him being a gold coin his parents told him to wear, Kyle finds himself at an Irish step dance performance. The next day Kyle’s suspicions are confirmed as his mom starts speaking in an Irish accent and cooking black and white pudding, before finally shrinking into her wee leprechaun form. Even more, in chemistry class, Kyle discovers that his gold coin has been replaced. At first, Kyle struggles with this new information, as his hair turns red and his ears turn pointy. His life seems to be falling apart as the luck he once relied on seems to disappear from his life.  

By hiding his Irish heritage from him, his parents teach Kyle that it is something to be ashamed of. Although his mother claims they did it to protect him from Irish persecution, which was obviously a very big problem in the 21st century, this secrecy seems to do more harm than good. In the beginning of the movie, Irish heritage is portrayed as a negative trait, complete with weird food, evil leprechauns, and an odd, previously unheard of, grandpa. These portrayals mirror the way Kyle feels about his heritage, finding it to be scary and unknown. With such influences, it is no surprise that Kyle struggles to adapt to his new identity and find confidence in it.  

It isn’t until Kyle bands together with his grandpa to defeat Seamus McTiernen, the evil leprechaun and Irish step dancer that stole Kyle’s coin, that he learns to accept his identity. Kyle’s grandfather, Reilly O’Reilly, is an unabashedly Irish leprechaun. O’Reilly runs a potato chip factory (along with inventing them), speaks in a heavy Irish accent, plays the flute when in despair, and even disowned his daughter after she married a human. He is proud to be Irish, proud to be a leprechaun. To Kyle, O’Reilly is a positive Irish, leprechaun role model, providing a stark contrast from his mom who hid her heritage under the rug and out of the light. O’Reilly teaches Kyle that being a leprechaun is not something to be ashamed of. Their attempts to retrieve the coin end up being unsuccessful and O’Reilly gets held captive, but throughout all this, Kyle gains some confidence in himself. When Seamus challenges Kyle to a competition of Irish sporting events (dancing, hurling, wrestling), Kyle fights for his clan’s luck back and for his grandfather’s freedom.  

When the competition ends in a tie, Kyle and Seamus compete in a basketball game to decide the winner. Kyle’s best friend and fellow teammate, Russell, doesn’t feel very confident in his game, but when O’Reilly (who is chained up on the backboard) gives him a ‘lucky’ coin, his performance immediately kicks up a notch. Later it is revealed that this coin wasn’t lucky or special in anyway; it was just a regular coin. Although this is a trope that is presented in other media, such as Harry Potter, it is still effective in this instance. It sends a message that performance is about more than just luck or a silly little coin; it shows that luck is a thing of perception; it shows that self-confidence is all that is really needed.  

With the help of his teammates, and his best friend’s improved performance, Kyle beats Seamus. His grandfather is freed, his family gets their luck back, and Seamus is banished to “live forever in the land of my fathers and never leave the shores of Erie again”- not a mispronunciation of Ireland but a reference to his father’s birthplace: Ohio. Irish heritage no longer seems so daunting to Kyle, as he realizes just how much he can overcome along with just how much the Irish overcame when they first arrived in America. When Heritage Day finally arrives, Kyle embraces both sides of his heritage- both Irish and Ohioan- by dancing an Irish jig and wearing a Cleveland T-shirt. Kyle no longer has to be embarrassed about his heritage or lack thereof. Granted, it did take his grandfather’s life being put on the line for Kyle to finally accept his heritage, but this small acceptance was enough to increase Kyle’s confidence tenfold. 

To say that “the Luck of the Irish” shamROCKS would be an understatement. The movie will forever live on in the memories of many 2000s kids. Underneath all the bad Irish accents and general silliness, the movie, admittedly, has a lot to teach. A little confidence can go a long way: confidence in your heritage, confidence in your game, confidence in your identity. Even if Kyle hadn’t recovered his clan’s luck, even if Kyle had lost the bet to Seamus, the confidence he gained in the whole ordeal probably would have been enough to make up for it. “The Luck of the Irish” shows just how vital hard work and self-assurance are. As cheesy as it may be, you can make your own luck by believing in your abilities and feeling comfortable in your identity. The bottom line is that if your mom tells you she’s a leprechaun, the most important thing you can do is learn to accept that part of yourself.