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Darby O'Gill and the Little People
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this low-key fantasy will win tweens' hearts, and most will find the brief scary parts just spooky enough. But as Darby and the leprechauns swap clever tricks, the film's engaging plot and evocative styling will keep the attention of older kids and adults as well. There's some drinking, shown as acceptable, and some brief scary scenes that may disturb more sensitive children.
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What's the story?
Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) loses his job to a younger man (Sean Connery). On his way home to tell his daughter Katie (Janet Munro), he ends up in an underground leprechaun kingdom. Although he is told can't leave the kindom, Darby escapes, followed by King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea). Brian ends up becoming Darby's property, and Darby demands Brian grant him three wishes and he'll let him go.
Is it any good?
The media has used leprechauns as cereal salesmen and serial killers, but Disney and director Robert Stevenson effectively captured their mischievous charm and integral place in Irish tradition. Central elements are: a multi-layered story (based on works by H.T. Kavanagh); skillful use of special effects photography; and a capable, winning cast. Darby himself is a character as colorful as his own tales and well-matched by King Brian, who manages to avoid stereotype while proving his fondness for Darby, both as a worthy adversary and fast friend.
The film offers a rich blend of atmospheric otherworldliness (in the mists of the fairy mountain, Knocknasheega, where pookas reign) and earthy realism (in the rustic sets, rousing music and authentically craggy faces). In his youthful glory, Sean Connery shines (and sings!) in his scenes with the adorable Janet Munro. She's spunky and modern, inviting him to a dance and initiating their first kiss. Their bumpy romance adds a warm dimension. Children and even adults may stumble over some of the Irish accents, but these enhance the flavor and obscure nothing essential. From the same Disney era which produced the favorite Old Yeller, Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a classic in its own right. In fact, one household has used it to celebrate St. Patrick's Day annually since their 14-year-old was little, and it's still a favorite.
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