Ultimate Disney Tournament: Darby O’Gill and the Little People vs. Angels in the Outfield

Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. Again, sorry for the delay. Life has been a bit hectic lately. I’m still very much enjoying this tournament though and I hope you guys are too.

Today’s match-up is an interesting one. We’ve got our first live action vs live action faceoff. It’s #97 Darby O’Gill and the Little People versus #160 Angels in the Outfield. I’ve experienced one for the first time ever and revisited the other for the first time in decades. Which one won out? Well, let’s figure out together.

#97 – Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

Director: Robert Stevenson

Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin

Starring: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, and Jimmy O’Dea

Plot: Darby O’Gill, an old Irish farmhand, catches a wish-granting leprechaun, which he uses to leave his daughter a better life. 

Mini-Review: And I thought Escape to Witch Mountain was weird? Darby O’Gill and the Little People is easily the strangest Disney movie I’ve come upon in this tournament yet. But, gosh darn it, it’s also delightful. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more Irish movie in my life.There’s leprechauns. There’s banshees. There’s plenty of drinking. And, there’s Sean Connery singing an Irish jig. I mean… what more could you want. It’s like all of the Saint Patrick’s Day cliches just explode all of the screen for 90 minutes. 

I only really have one minor complaint about Darby O’Gill. They don’t really hold your hand at all. It’s an immediate deep dive into the world of Irish folklore and there’s a lot happening early on. You don’t get a scene like Genie explaining that Aladdin gets three wishes. You have to just know that the leprechaun king grants wishes. Also, there’s no explanation of what the banshee is. With the accents, it definitely took some time for me to catch up. In fact, I had to pause it and read the Wiki to make sure I caught everything. You probably should just know that going in. It’s a very strange experience, especially in the world of family entertainment. However, I didn’t mind it all that much because it added to the feeling that this movie is balls to the wall crazy.

I’m not really super crazy about the ending either. I’m not going to go too deep into it, because, well, spoilers. But, I think there’s some logical fallacies here. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment all that much though. Just definitely thought it was worth mentioning.

The special effects in this movie are amazing. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would think Walt Disney pulled a Willy Wonka and actually found leprechauns somewhere in the world. But, in reality, it’s just forced perspective, mirror tricks, and the occasional puppet. It definitely comes together well though. I’m constantly impressed with what filmmakers were able to do with practical effects before computers. I really wish that art form would make a comeback, because, in my opinion, some of this stuff looks better than green screens and CGI.

But, overall, I just enjoy the energy this movie radiates. It’s like what Disney World does at EPCOT, where they take a whole country, highlight the positives, and just give you a feel for the land within just an acre or two. That’s how Darby O’Gill feels. It’s like if Epcot had an Ireland pavilion. In fact, I’m surprised they don’t because a dark ride based on this movie would be the perfect centerpiece for it. 

I definitely enjoyed Darby O’Gill and the Little People. It’s like a romp through an Irish fairy tale. The characters are delightful. The story is interesting. And, the special effects are top notch, even by today’s standards. I definitely plan on re-watching it every St. Patty’s day.

#160 – Angels in the Outfield (1994)

Director: William Dear

Writer: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Brenda Fricker, Ben Johnson, Jay O. Sanders, and Christopher Lloyd

Plot: After being told he and his father would reunite  “when the Angels win the pennant,” a boy prays that they start winning and actual angels intervene to help out.

Mini-Review: You know what’s dangerous? Revisiting movies you loved as a child and haven’t seen for a very long time. Especially live-action flicks. Because, odds are pretty good that they just won’t hold up and you’ll just be super disappointed. That’s definitely the case with Angels in the Outfield. I remember watching it once as a little kid and enjoying it. However, it was never really one of my favorites so I didn’t obsessively watch it and my nostalgia for it was moderate at best. But, the movie definitely left a positive impression on me to the point that I was surprised, later in life, to learn that people genuinely did not enjoy it. Well, I can now officially say that I see where they were coming from. It’s not very good. 

If I had to sum up Angels in the Outfield in one word, it would be cheesy. This movie reeks of cheese. Just look at any of the scenes featuring the actual angels! They look like they belong in a Trinity Broadcasting original movie, not something put out by Disney. And the acting isn’t much better either. While you’d expect performances from child actors to be stale and awkward, it’s weird to see one coming from Danny Glover. He’d been acting for years at that point with Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple already under his belt. How the heck is his performance so bad here then? And I don’t want to just pick on him either. Everyone from Christopher Lloyd to Neal McDonough is hamming it up here. And the slapstick comedy is just unbearable at times. And, what’s with the random sad part in the middle of the climax? Was that necessary? Did it really need to happen? We never really address it. There’s just a line thrown in that one of the players is… (Spoiler) about to die (End spoilers) and we never address it ever again. There’s like 30 seconds of the kids being sad and that’s it. Actually, the whole movie is kind of weirdly sad and slapstick-y. It’s super strange.

Also, how weird is it that this movie is sprinkled with future superstars? Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the main character of the freaking movie, is listed seventh in the credits. He was such a no-name actor at the time that he was barely worth mentioning. It’s surreal, but that’s not even half of it. Watching the first couple of baseball sequences gives you the same feeling you get when you’re scanning the crowd at a big, televised Hollywood event. There are two future Oscar winners in Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey. And, it features a little bit of the MCU with decades younger Dum Dum Dugan actor Neal McDonough. Again, none of these guys were known at the time of their casting. It’s super strange, but adds a fun, unintended benefit to watching the movie today.

Overall, Angels in the Outfield is not good. It’s not a complete waste. There aren’t nearly enough positives to balance out the cheese though. It’s a movie that should forever live on in your childhood memory, but is not worth revisiting. Trust me. It’s better that way.

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: Our hero for Darby O’Gill and the Little People is none other than Darby O’Gill himself. I freaking love this guy. He’s awesome. He’s just the sweetest old man. It’s a case of absolutely perfect casting. Every time this dude smiles, you want to smile along with him. Watching him try to outwit the leprechaun king, who he has terrific chemistry with, was delightful. And, he’s a super good guy too. Throughout the movie, he’s not really thinking about himself with his wishes. He just wants what’s best for his daughter. And, when she’s taken care of, we even see him use a wish to help out the other townsfolk, many of whom tease him on a regular basis. It’s super admirable.

Despite what the credits for Angels in the Outfield will have you believe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Roger Bomman, is the main character. He’s the one leading the story. And, as far as lead characters go, he’s pretty good. He’s got a super sympathetic arc. It’s the heart of the film. We want to see him reunited with his father. However, as reasonable adults, we know it’s never going to happen. It makes you really want to just give the kid a hug. Plus, like I said earlier, it’s adorable 13-year-old JGL. You don’t have to try very hard to get us to like him.

Gotta give this win to my main man, Darby O’Gill. The fact that there’s absolutely no way to spend more time with this character bums me out.

Our Beloved Side Characters: As wonderful as Darby O’Gill is, my favorite character has to be the leprechaun King Brian. It’s another case of pitch perfect casting. His pantomime skills are off the charts. The amount of emotion the dude was able to portray with just his facial expressions and his body movements was impressive. Also, he’s got a super contagious laugh. But, my favorite part is the fact that I wasn’t sure whether to put him in this category or list him as a villain for like 90% of the runtime. Again, his rivalry with Darby is just so much fun to watch. The banter and trash talking between the two was a lot of fun. (I wish they had made a sequel actually. I want more of this.) And, of course, what’s a Disney flick without a little romance? In this case, our lovebirds are Katie O’Gill and Michael MacBride. Katie is Darby’s daughter. She cares deeply for her dad, but isn’t afraid to give him a little sass. She’s reluctant to marry because she doesn’t want to leave her father’s side. That is, of course, until she meets Michael. Michael was hired as a replacement for Darby, but is super respectful about it. He quickly becomes very attached and protective to the family, not wanting to kick them out. Also, he’s played by Sean Freaking Connery and the rest of the townspeople are jerks, so, of course, she falls in love with him. I wasn’t super invested in their story, even though both characters are likable. It’s kind of just your typical romance. That rivalry between Darby and Brian though? Gold. A pot full of gold.

There are a lot of memorable side characters in Angels in the Outfield. We’ve got George Knox. He’s the manager played by Danny Glover. I do not like this character at all. Not only is Glover’s performance not great, but the dude is super unlikable. They do this in kids’ movies a lot. We’re introduced to a guy who’s grumpy and way past his prime. However, through some cheery attitudes, he eventually opens up his heart to become a better person. In this case, though, I think they did too good of a job making him a jerk. So that, by the time we’re ready for his turn, he’s kind of already irredeemable. It feels less like he’s gotten his life together and more like he’s just exploiting the situation. Probably my favorite supporting character is J.P. He’s pretty much in the same boat as Roger. He’s another foster kid, who is worried about his future. But, he’s somehow even more adorable. The scene where we find out what happened to his parents is crushing. It’s crazy to me that this actor was only in two movies and a couple tv episodes. During the games, the kids are watched by David Montagne. I’m not sure how I feel about him as a character overall. On the one hand, they do the usual shtick of the business professional who is in over his head with these kids. That’s almost always funny. On the other, they push it a bit too far. I don’t know. It’s a recurring gag throughout the movie that sometimes made me laugh and other times made me groan. In the whole baseball team, there are really only two characters worth mentioning. Tony Dazna plays Mel Clark, a pitcher past his prime. I really liked the redemption arc they had set up for him. Unfortunately, I think the unnecessarily bleak ending kind of ruined that for me. Then, there’s Whitt Bass. I hated this guy with his constant chewing of waaaay too much bubblegum and the slapstick-y way he threw the ball. I legitimately did not enjoy any time we spent with this character. I’m glad McDonough went with the more “bad-ass soldier” route in his later career because goofy comedy isn’t really his thing. Lastly, we have Al. He’s the lead angel. I really wanted to like him. I think I did as a kid. But, man, Christopher Lloyd just makes this character creepy and unpleasant. Do you know how hard it is for me to say that? I love Christopher Lloyd! But this character just did not work. In fact, all of the angels were kind of creepy. Yeah. Like I said, a lot of this movie doesn’t really hold up.

King Brian easily earns Darby O’Gill and the Little People this round as well.

Villianous Villains: In Darby O’Gill and the Little People, we have two central villains. They are the mother and son duo of Pony and Sheelah Sugrue. Pony is kind of your typical douche. He’s another villain that’s more or less on par with Gaston. He’s super cocky and thinks he deserves the heart of Katie. This causes him to get in actual fistfights with Michael on more than one occasion. Plus, he’s constantly making fun of Darby, which just is not cool, man. But, we do have an added element over Gaston. He’s not a tool on his accord. He’s been raised that way. His mother, Sheelah, builds up his ego in the most obnoxious ways. She’s constantly looking for ways to screw everyone else over if it benefits her son. They truly are not likable people at all. Oh, and there’s a Banshee who is freaking terrifying. That thing has definitely made some kids cry.

The only thing less believable than angels helping players out on the field is the villain for Angels in the Outfield. There are legitimately no people in the world like Ranch Wilder. He’s the sportscaster for the Angels… but he openly hates the Angels. There is no way this guy is getting that job in reality. I don’t care how bad the team is. The one who calls the game is always a fan and they’re usually pretty dang optimistic. This just felt like they needed a villain and threw one in at the last second. (Side note: Does anyone else think the actor who played him, Jay O. Sanders looks a lot like David Harbour? I had to check Google to make sure it wasn’t.)

That Banshee if freaky, man. It’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People again.

Quotable Quotes: For Darby O’Gill and the Little People: Honestly, I loved this movie, but I did not write any quotes down and, when I did my research after, nothing really stood out. Maybe it’s the accents?

From Angels in the Outfield: When asked if angels play baseball: “Since the all-star break, yes.” “We can’t even lose as a team.” “Amen. Oh… and A-woman, too.” “You can’t go through life thinking everyone you need will one day let you down.” After being told not to swear: “That eliminates all the speech for most of the team.”

Yeah. I literally have no choice but to give this to Angels in the Outfield.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: If you like Irish music, Darby O’Gill and the Little People has a couple little, cute songs. The most famous one is “Pretty Irish Girl” which is a romance song. It’s interesting to hear Sean Connery sing. He and Janet Munro, the actress who played Katie, both have terrific voices, so this definitely ends up being a sweet song. Then, there’s “The Wishing Song,” which is less of a song and more like a drunk, Irish rap battle between Darby and King Brian. While I immensely enjoyed the scene, I’m not sure I’d ever listen to the song separately. Likewise, there’s a couple of Irish jigs that are charming enough, but not really my style. 

Other than score, there was not any original music in Angels in the Outfield. There are a couple rousing versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” though.

Another easy win for Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

Most Magical Disney Moment: In Darby O’Gill and the Little People, there’s really no choice. It’s the extended dance sequence after Darby gets trapped in the leprechauns’ lair. Honestly, the whole time we’re in the cave is 50s Disney magic at its peak. But, I especially loved the dancing. In order to trick them into getting worked up and leaving, he starts playing the fiddle. What follows is one of the weirdest, yet absolutely delightful moments I’ve seen in a Disney movie. It’s essentially just five minutes of dancing. The special effects are so good and the characters so charming, though, that you are 150% invested in it. Plus, there’s tiny horses!

n Angels in the Outfield, the final game is super close. The angels can’t help, because it’s unfair for them to help in the championship (I guess). It’s down to the last pitch and Mel is suffering. Roger decides to do a little white lie and tell him that there is, in fact, an angel helping him. Before you know it, the whole team and all of their fans are flapping their arms like they’re angel wings for encouragement. It’s cheesy, but, like, the good kind that all sports movies are. And, it really, really gets you pumped up for that final play. 

While the Angels in the Outfield moment is inspirational, the Darby O’Gill and the Little People scene actually feels like real magic captured on screen. It gets the win here as well.

Legacies: Unfortunately, Darby O’Gill and the Little People doesn’t have much of a legacy today. It’s mostly forgotten by modern audiences. However, just about everyone who has seen it seems to enjoy it with many critics naming it as one of the best little known Disney movies. The movie has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.2 on IMDB. It finished within the top twenty highest grossing movies of 1959. Janet Munro received the Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe for her performance. It’s not represented in any of the Disney Parks. (Like I said, it should be though.) And, maybe the most lasting impact, this movie is the first time producer Albert Broccoli saw Sean Connery, which led to him getting the role of James Bond. So, that’s definitely something. Overall, it’s legacy is that it’s a super underrated movie and you should go watch it.

Angels in the Outfield is yet another case where the legacy of the movie is probably bigger than the movie itself. It currently has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.2 on IMDB. It was not a huge box office hit, barely making back its budget when you take marketing into account. There are two direct to video sequels, Angels in the Endzone (featuring a returning Christopher Lloyd) and Angels in the Infield (with none of the original cast). Two years later, due to their connection to the films, Disney bought the California Angels, renovated their stadium with the Imagineers, and renamed them the Anaheim Angels. Under Disney, the team won their only championship. However, this ownership was brief as they failed to make much of a profit. Still, for a movie that didn’t leave much of a mark on the box office, that’s quite the legacy. 

Oh, also, if you’ve just recently watched this movie and/or are nostalgic for it, look up the 30 for 30 parody on Angels in the Outfield. It’s really, really funny. 

As sad as it is to admit, I’ve got to give the legacy point to Angels in the Outfield. It led to some real world results.

AND THE WINNER IS…

DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE

I cannot emphasize enough how delightful Darby O’Gill is. It’s a super fun watch. It’s definitely one I will be revisiting over and over. Angels in the Outfield, on the other hand, does not hold up very well. It’s best left in the 90s.

So, congratulations, Darby, King Brian, and the crew! You guys advance to the next round. Also, Darby O’Gill and the Little People is the first live action movie to move on. That’s super impressive!

Be sure to check in next time for another sports flick, Remember the Titans, facing off against a Disney sequel, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. I’ve seen both of these movies and still have no idea who’s going to win. So, be sure to come back in a couple days when the post is up.

See you then!

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