Ernest Rides Again
1993, PG, 96 min. Directed by John R. Cherry III. Starring Jim Varney, Ron K. James, Linda Kash.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 12, 1993
This is the second time in as many weeks I've seen a sub-awful movie in an otherwise deserted theater, and the experience is beginning to grow on me. No stranger to private screenings myself, it's another matter entirely when you attend on a regular weeknight with the expectation of being surrounded by scores of other moviegoers, only to find yourself, mercifully, alone. I take this as a sign that it's okay to stretch out and yammer back at the less-than-witty dialogue coming from the screen. It's quite fun, actually. This fifth entry into the (seemingly endless) Ernest series once again finds the talented Jim Varney (more recently seen as Jed Clampett in Penelope Spheeris's reworking of The Beverly Hillbillies) mining the same comedic territory he's been plowing through for the last decade. As semi-lovable hick Ernest P. Worrell, Varney's schtick consists of sophomoric slapstick and extremely broad mugging, and not much else. Other Ernest outings – most notably Ernest Saves Christmas – had an undeniably goofy good-naturedness that tended to compensate, if only slightly, for the film's less than linear plotline, something which is noticeably absent here. This time out, Ernest and his reluctant history professor pal Abner Melon (James) concoct a scheme to recover the British Crown Jewels (the ones in the Tower of London are fakes, natch) from their hiding place within a Revolutionary War field cannon. Pursued by an evil art collector and the British Secret Service, the two bumbling heroes struggle against vacuous dialogue and increasingly improbable situations to return the jewels to their rightful place. Right. Unfortunately, this kind of sledgehammer comedy has worn thin over the many years since Mack Sennett first hit on it. Likewise, the whole notion of Ernest, who comes off as an outdated mid-Eighties anomaly, an occasionally amusing TV huckster whose rightful place should be buried deep within our collective unconsciousness – not in our movie theatres. Know-whut-I-mean-Vern?