Sunday, May 20, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 22 - ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991)

- Rated PG for fantasy violence, scary monster situations, and brief mild language.
- Starring Jim Varney, Ertha Kitt
- Story by John Cherry & Coke Sams;  Screenplay by Coke Sams & Charles Gale
- Directed by John Cherry
- Running time: 1hr 33min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!) 

I watched a lot of Ernest movies, commercials and TV shows when I was kid, and I liked them enough.  I watched ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS every year, but I remember ERNEST GOES TO CAMP and JAIL being my 2 favorites.  I remember hating ERNEST RIDES AGAIN when I saw that at the age of 17 in the theater.  And I didn't even bother with his straight-to-video crap.  But ERNEST SCARED STUPID, I believe, I only saw once at a friend's house when it first came out on video.  I remember thinking it was stupid, but funny.  Now, 20 years later, I'm giving it a second look.

Ernest P. Worrell works for the Government in a small town... meaning he drives the garbage truck.  He's a klutz and accident prone, always messing things up.  But he's such a nice guy, and is friends with many of the town's children (which is a bit creepy when you think of it, but that could be an entirely different film).  He helps them make a giant tree house, but he chose the wrong tree.  It actually harbors 200 year old trolls and of course Ernest accidentally says the right words to release one of them, who spends half the movie turning kids into wood statues in order to feed the tree so more trolls can be released.  It's up to Ernest (who's an enormous coward) and his dog rimshot to save the day.

Even for an Ernest film, the premise is pretty ludicrous, which also adds to it's cult appeal.  I mean, a clumsy, loudmouth, redneck with a heart of gold battling two hundred year old trolls?  Sign me up!  Unfortunately, the film hasn't held up to well over the years.  I'm not sure exactly what it is.  Maybe this one was just not as good as the other Ernest films, or maybe I just don't think he's all that funny anymore (it has been 15 years since I've seen any of the others ones too).  I have fond memories of the character from my childhood, but I only found him sporadically funny.  I still think the way he says, "Ewwwwoooo", wiggling his puckered lips every time he gets grossed out, is chuckle worthy, but some of his sped up pratfalls are not.  Seeing him fall backwards off a ladder 86 times gets old.  But I still enjoyed some of his character work.  Though it doesn't make a whole lot of sense when Varney dresses up as a bunch of weird characters, I still find some of them funny, especially the old lady.

The supporting cast is pretty lame.  Ertha Kitt is okay I guess as she hisses out her lines as a crazy old witch lady, but the townsfolk all seem to be from rejected TV sitcoms.  The worst part of the movie is the whole subplot with the kids.  Their story is not interesting.  It follows a kid named Kenny and his friend Elizabeth as they deal with school bullies.  The acting is atrocious by these young actors.  I couldn't care less who got turned to wooden doll.  In a perfect world, the kids from THE MONSTER SQUAD would've teams up with Ernest to battle the trolls.  Now THAT would be a fun movie!

The second half is a little better than the first.  That's when Ernest starts to battle trolls.  That's pretty awesome!  I still love it when he says "How about a bumper sandwich booger lips", just as he's about to run over a troll with his truck.  Ah, the memories.  There is a wacky novelty to be amused by here, but that's all it is, a novelty that no longer exists.  A few things Ernest does are funny, but mostly the jokes are pretty uninspired.  I'm debating whether to rewatch the other Ernest films, or maybe I should just let them rest as fond film geek childhood memories.  I wish I still liked it, but ERNEST SCARED STUPID is just not that good anymore.

** (out of ****)

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