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A Monster Movie: The Ernest P. Worrell Way
Director: John Cherry
Cast: Jim Varney, Eartha Kitt, Bill Byrge, John Cadenhead, Shay Astar, Austin Nagler, Daniel Butler, Larry Black
Whenever I think about the character of Ernest P. Worrell, I immediately harken back to my childhood days. I remember watching a VHS recording of Ernest Goes to Campduring the summer times with my family, and how we shared some good solid laughs at the man's many goofball shenanigans. He was a few cans short of a six pack, but he was also always sincere and kindhearted, and that was why we loved him. There was nothing offensive about the film, and as the years passed by and the world saw more Ernest films released, my family and I took great pleasure in sharing many more adventures with that lovable buffoon.
Ernest Scared Stupid was a film my family and I frequently visited during the month of October, along with other family friendly scare shows like The Watchers in the Woods, Something Wicked This way Comes and Lady in White, as well as that ever so classic horror movie spoof Young Frankenstein. It was something of a yearly ritual to see one of his films, one that I followed up till my high school years. I hadn't seen any of the Ernest films for a few years after finishing high school and heading off to college, and it wasn't until recently that I managed to find some of his films on DVD and finally got a chance to revisit some of them.
Watching Ernest Scared Stupid for the first time in years was like being reunited with an old childhood friend. To this day, he still manages to put a smile on my face, even though I now notice just how ineptly put together the majority of his films are. I could be a cynic and write that Ernest Scared Stupid is one of the very worst movies of all time, and I could no doubt make some solid arguments to back up my claim. Yet deep down, I know that I can not be a critic with Ernest. The man has managed to work his way into my heart over the years, so to speak ill of him now after all these years would feel like an act of betrayal on my part.
So what are you supposed to take from this review, you ask? If I am incapable of providing a serious and honest evaluation of the film, why even put it on this web site? Because for anyone who has ever liked so much as a single Ernest film, this movie bears mentioning. For them, this is a right film to see on Halloween (or any time, for that matter). For them, they'll get exactly what they paid for. You want to see Ernest P. Worrell face off against an ugly, child hating troll? Then friend, have I got a film for you.
The movie gets off to an amusing start with the opening credits playing over clips of cheesy black and white horror films like House on Haunted Hill and The Brain That Wouldn't Die! We occasionally see Ernest run across the frame, looking panicked but occasionally making a face one usually makes when they smell a rancid fart. By the time we see the title card “Directed by John Cherry” appear on the screen, I was already sold on the film. This is what I want to see when I put in a film called Ernest Scared Stupid into my DVD player. It's delivering exactly what it promised.
We then cut to “Briarville, Missouri. Long Ago,” where a little girl runs screaming from an off-screen evil through the woods. The creature is caught by Ernest's descendant Phineas Worrell (also Varney), who buries it under an oak tree and banishes the creature to eternal darkness. Before Phineas and the town's people bury the creature, it curses Worrell and his future offspring, so that each of Phineas' descendants would get dumber and dumber in time.
Make no mistake about it: Ernest is certainly at his dumbest in this film. This time, he plays a local garbage man, and he accidentally reawakens the troll after building a tree house for some local kids right smack dab over the creature's resting place. When the creature rises from his slumber and begins terrorizing the town, Ernest makes it his mission to try to capture the troll by setting up a number of traps throughout the woods. Basically, this means that he merely lays a few bear traps around and tries to lure the creature to a “Troll Motel,” which is nothing more a garbage dumpster with its lid kept up.
The troll needs to kidnap and change five children into miniature wooden dolls, which will somehow resurrect the rest of his troll army. Some of the local kids soon learn that it takes milk to kill the trolls, although it takes Ernest a little while longer to figure it out. There is a scene where he reads a book about the creature, and notes that the element to defeat the troll is “M-I-something-K.” After pondering what on earth it could be, he comes to the conclusion that it takes “Authentic Bulgarian miak!” One of the funniest scenes in the film has Ernest showing off his jar of miak to the troll. “I bet you thought I couldn't find this anywhere, did ya?” he says with a proud smile on his face.
There is another way to defeat the trolls, one that Ernest figures out in the climax and uses to defeat the leader. Reader, I would not dream of revealing what it is here. If you have not seen the film and are considering it now, then to reveal what it is would be to ruin one of the most amusing, and admittedly disgusting, endings yet in any of the Ernest films.
So, yes, I still find Ernest and his brand of humor funny, although some of you might feel differently. Some of you will argue that the film doesn't contain one single solitary moment of logic or common sense at all, and technically, you would be right. Take the scene where Ernest battles it out with a troll in the bed of his truck as an example. His Jack Russell terrier Rimshot drives the vehicle while Ernest fights off the troll. There eventually reaches a moment where Ernest knocks the troll off his truck, and Rimshot somehow manages to put the truck in reverse and run the creature down. A scene like that is either going to make you smile or roll your eyes.
For those of you who rolled your eyes at that scene, you may also find many other things to hate about the film. You may argue that the acting is terrible, the visuals are bland, the story makes little to no sense, and so on and so forth. If I were to approach this film with a critical mind, I would agree with you. But I enjoy Ernest too much to look at it with a critical mind, and fans of the character no doubt feel the same way. To those of you who love Ernest P. Worrell, I say, see Ernest Scared Stupid this Halloween. You'll be glad you did. For those of you who hate him, I doubt that you even made it this far in the review.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)