I’ve been watching Ernest films every few months all year, so of course I couldn’t let December go by without taking a look at John Cherry’s contribution to the season: Ernest Saves Christmas. Released in 1988, it’s the second film starring Jim Varney as Ernest, the know-nothing know-it-all. The title should leave no surprise as to the heart of the story; what may be a little surprising, however, is that Ernest isn’t the one who endangers Christmas in the first place. No, that’s actually Santa Claus himself, played admirably here by Douglas Seale.
In this movie, Santa Claus is a title and position passed on every hundred years or so. Santa’s powers start to fade as time goes on, and can only be renewed by passing them on to a successor. The current Santa has left the decision for too long, and has to pass them on before it’s time for Christmas Eve’s annual run, or the magic of Christmas will be gone forever. Continue reading →
A few months back I picked up a copy of Ernest Goes to Campand reviewed it here, as one of the many movies of the 1980s that I couldn’t quite remember seeing. That movie came on a cheap DVD three-pack, which meant that there were a couple other Ernest P. Worrell films to get to eventually. Looking at the films, I decided to space them out about three months apart — the third is a Halloween film so it should be seen in October — and so it has now come time to watch and review 1990′s Ernest Goes to Jail. Although it’s the second Ernest film I’ve seen, it’s technically the third in the series — the second being Ernest Saves Christmas — but I figured that the Ernest series was unlikely to have an in-depth continuity that needed to be followed.
There do, however, seem to be some constants in the Ernest films. Besides Jim Varney as the title character, the films all seem to be directed by John R. Cherry III, and at least in the first few films, Gailard Sartain plays a bumbling friend of Ernest with an interest in inventions. In this case, however, he’s a different character than in “Camp”, playing Chuck, one of two security guards at the bank. The other, Bobby, is played by Bill Byrge, who never speaks a word but mugs for the camera even more than Varney himself does. Continue reading →
Another one from the fog banks of my childhood memory. I know I saw Ernest Goes to Camp when I was young — probably the year it came out on video (it was released to theatres in 1987). But I remember very little of it beyond, of course, Ernest himself, who was already pretty indelible from his commercials (and who is one of the very few successes in the “Let’s turn a pitchman character into a movie or TV show” genre.) Despite my brother and some friends absolutely loving Ernest P. Worrell, I somehow never saw the film after that one mostly-forgotten viewing, and have never seen any other Ernest film. A $5 DVD three-pack allowed me to rectify this situation, so at the very least I wouldn’t have to put up with any further ragging from my friends about not having seen it (my friends are, as you might guess from my own leanings, very insistent upon seeing all the popular films from the 1980s and most of the unpopular ones as well.)
There’s an art to making a comedy about stupid people, and I think it’s been virtually lost nowadays. As the Three Stooges knew very well, you have to be pretty smart to be funny at being stupid. It takes work, it takes timing. It takes some planning beyond “ha ha, this guy is dumb.” I’m not convinced that, for example, Ben Stiller is smart enough, and I’m pretty sure Rob Schneider isn’t. But Jim Varney, the man beneath the khaki cap of Ernest, seems to know what he’s doing. Continue reading →