Saturday, October 6, 2018

ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991) movie review

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) d. John Cherry (USA) (91 min)

Confession: prior to now, I had never seen an Ernest P. Worrell movie or television skit. I was aware of the character created by Jim Varney and advertising executive-turned-director John Cherry from the various direct-address commercials he appeared in, frequently spouting his signature “KnowwhatImean,Vern?”catchphrase, but I had never had the inclination to actually sit down and experience the phenomenon firsthand. When I stumbled across a three-pack of Ernest films at the local library with the October Challenge in full swing – a time when good judgment often gives way to “why the hell not?” – it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Having ventured to the other side, however, I wish I could say I understood the appeal or, more to the point, that everyone’s standards could have been just that much higher.

A monstrous troll (hats off to the great creature design by the Chiodo Brothers of Killer Klowns from Outer Space fame), buried at the bottom of a tree for generations, is accidentally freed by Ernest and it’s up to our hero, his faithful pooch Rimshot, and his neighborhood tween friends (Austin Nagler, Shay Aster) to send the gnarly beast back from whence it came, with a little help from town weirdee Eartha Kitt.

The rubber-faced Varney is clearly a capable actor (even if one didn’t already know he was a classically trained Shakespearean actor and successful stand-up comedian), but his onscreen antics feel like the first week of a haphazard, “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” workshop as opposed to a well-tuned (read as: ruthlessly edited and refined) final production. Too bad, since within the relentless mugging and straining, there are actually some worthwhile funny bits. I expect this will please the less-than-discriminating 8-year-old monster kids out there, but for anyone looking for the next great family-friendly horror/comedy, keep looking.

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