Ernest Scared Stupid
Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 6.5 Beans
rnest: Scared Stupid
Back in the 1980s, Jim Varney appeared in some commercials as a goofball named Ernest. He spoke to the hapless, unseen "Vern" and said "know what I mean?" I suppose it was mildly funny, for a thirty-second commercial.
Unfortunately, someone thought the character had more potential than that. Varney appeared in a short-lived series, "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" The TV series only lasted a season, but the character got his own movie series. That's Hollywood at the turn of the millennium. Forget original ideas or good scripts: just build around an established product, no matter how weak. One can only be relieved the trend hit after Clara Pellar died. I don't think I could have handled a "Where's the Beef" movie. The possibilities, in fact, are endless and frightening: "Mikey's Great Life Cereal Adventure." "The Doublemint Twins Do Dallas." And so on.
I'm certain the entire "Ernest" canon belongs at Bad Movie Night. I'm equally certain someone else is going to have to sit through the other films to review them. For my part, I'll review the horror-comedy effort: "Ernest: Scared Stupid."
The title sequence intercuts great old horror movie clips with Varney looking scared and stupid. These cheesy b&w excerpts demonstrate more inventiveness and entertainment value than the film that follows, while Varney's grimaces pretty much exhaust the Ernest character's potential. If you stop watching after the opening credits role, you will have received as much pleasure as the film can give you.
If you insist on watching, here's what you'll see:
Way back when, some Puritans dispense with an evil troll who has been harassing them. The troll, named Trantor, promises to return some day, and curses Worrell's descendants. They will grow stupider and stupider with each passing generation, and, finally, produce the intended audience for this film. Okay, actually, the current descendant is (duh!) Ernest.
His first appearance onscreen (since the title sequence) proves once again that the character can be amusing for about two seconds, especially if you're ten years old. Varney can do slapstick, but the Ernest character doesn't have the range to be funny for long, and he quickly becomes grating. Really, really, grating. Nails-dragging-along-a-blackboard, foot-stomping-a- crunchy-bug, someone-stapling-your-genitalia -level grating.
Of course, the muppet-like troll returns. Trantor can only be stopped by someone with "the heart of a child" (can't guess who?). Ernest, aided by some precocious kids who make Rube Goldberg weapons and a wacky psychic played by Eartha Kitt, of course must save the day.
Kitt and the kids don't do too badly. This might have made a passable children's movie, if it had been more consistently inventive and funny, and if someone other than Jar Jar Binks's demi-human cousin had been the lead. He could still be a childlike doofus-- but even a kids' movie need a central figure who has more than one dimension.
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