★ Bad Things Are Sometimes the Best Things

Have you ever liked a film ironically, only to look up a little while later and suddenly find that you have genuinely fallen in love with it? Of course you have. But what separates me from you normal people is that I do it with alarming regularity. I can't even begin to count the number of terrible films that I honestly love with all of my heart. I can't explain why or how I have fallen under the spell of these cinematic atrocities, but there's no denying that they've got me for life.

For instance, it has become perfectly normal for me to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by watching Leprechaun 4: In Space. It's easy to see why I love the film. First of all, it's in space - wait, let me finish. It's not unusual for a crappy franchise running out of ideas to journey to space in a desperate attempt to capture the sci-fi (not Syfy) zeitgeist. But directors usually try to superficially hide this desperate gambit by attaching some sort of Nonsensical Future Title to their pile of celluloid excrement. Jason In Space was Jason X. Dracula in Space was Dracula 3000. But this auteur (IMDB says his name is Brian Trenchard-Smith, and his current project is Porky's: The College Years) was not going in for that chicanery. He was making the fourth film in a series about a Leprechaun, and it just happened to be set in space. The title was a no-brainer, and God bless the man, he had no brain.

I could go on endlessly about the general crappiness of this film - the nonsensical script, the terrible acting (especially from "Dr. Mittenhand" and Heidi from Home Improvement), the Warwick Davis soliloquies, the general feeling that there was probably a porno being shot next door - but I really think that all you need to know to truly understand everything that is gloriously horrific about Leprechaun 4: In Space can be boiled down to one character: the Black Guy. IMDB tells me that his name is Sticks, and that he is played by Miguel A. Nunez Jr. Mr. Nunez is quite prolific. Among his other credits, he was "Dee Jay" in the Street Fighter film before graduating to the role of "Scientist" in Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. He also appeared on 16 episodes of NBC's Joey - you know, the show with that guy from Friends who didn't have any other career prospects after the series finale - but he is probably best known for playing the title character in Juwanna Mann, and when that is the top item on your resume, you know you have made it, baby.

Sticks, who I'll refer to as Black Guy because that is clearly how the film wants me to think of him, is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with this film, and with cinema in general. There are two types of Black Guys in bad sci-fi films: the noble black guys who die first, and the wacky black guys who live on as the comical sidekicks of the white hero and heroine. Leprechaun 4: In Space's Black Guy falls into the latter category, insofar as he survives the film under those circumstances. But over the course of the narrative, something strange happens to him. When we are first introduced to Black Guy, he 's a no-nonsense Space Marine and the best friend of our (well, for lack of a better term) protagonist. But by the end of the film he has devolved into an avatar of Marlon Wayans. He panics, he bellows, he makes comments about the dancing ability or lack thereof of white people - all in all, an outlandish stereotype that the Kingfish would frown on. (Not the Huey Long Kingfish. The racist one.) He starts the film as the noble Black Guy, and ends it as J.J. from Good Times.

But what really makes this spectacular is that over the course of the film, it becomes blatantly obvious that the whole thing was shot out of order, because Black Guy fluctuates between these two stereotypes from scene to scene. Now that's bad enough on the surface, but when you think about the reasons behind the radical shifts in character, you see everything that could have possibly went wrong with this film. It's like when Zaphod stepped into the box and the universe opened up before him - it's all there for you to see. Clearly the producers didn't have much of a budget, so they couldn't reshoot anything, but there obviously came a point during filming where one of two things happened. One possibility is that the character was written as a stereotype and the crew stopped and said, "Oh God, we can't do this," and they decided to get rid of the racial component and just make him a hard-nosed marine. But given the people involved with this film, it is far more likely that the second possibility is what actually came to pass, and that is that the character was conceived as the no-nonsense Space Marine, and about halfway through filming, someone on the film said, "This character sucks! Miguel, play him as a wacky black guy!" And he did!

Patton Oswalt has a great bit on a film that I have yet to see but must seek out called Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People. I suggest you seek it out, and I won't bother summarizing the film or the bit, but there is one part where he talks about the struggles related to the artist's process. Art doesn't just happen. It has to be forced into the world by attrition. There was someone who felt so passionately about Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People that he just had to make it. And so it was with Leprechaun 4: In Space. No matter how studio-driven or financially motivated the decision to make the film might have been, the people who actually made it had to put in months of creative energy to try to force this cinematic abortion into the world. Someone made the decision to change Black Guy from a no-nonsense hero into a comical stereotype because he thought it would make the film better. It's that kind of thinking that makes these terrible films so worthwhile.

Also, the scene where the Leprechaun bursts out of the man's crotch. That makes it worthwhile as well.