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Ernest Goes to Camp / Ernest Goes to Jail Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

This reference may be slightly dated at this point, but before the rise of redneck comedy occurred in America in the form of entertainment such as The Blue Collar Comedy Tour in 2000, there was an early comic persona fulfilling that role.  That persona belonged to Ernest P. Worrell, the rubber-faced goofball, who was a seemingly good natured fellow, despite being accident prone and constantly mugging at the camera.  Originating as an advertising tool, the character (played by the late Jim Varney) would go on to become popular enough to headline a series of films that revolved around his latest situation or predicament. Regardless of the quality of the “Ernest Goes To…” series, I am happy to make my Why So Blu Blu-ray review debut with a cinematic analysis of the Blu-ray disc double feature of Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Goes to JailKnowWhatIMean?

Films

Ernest Goes to Camp

Ernest Goes to Camp was the first feature film to star Ernest as a lead character.  Similar to the other ‘Ernest’ films, Jim Varney establishes the Ernest character as a maintenance worker with aspirations for proudly becoming someone more important.  This time around, Ernest is a maintenance man at a summer camp, hoping to become a counselor.  He gets his chance when the regular counselors decide he would be perfect to take on the small group of juvenile delinquents, who have been brought to camp under the assumption that this is their second chance to be productive.  As the kids have already hospitalized their first counselor, it will be up to Ernest to try and connect with the kids, even if they think themselves to be too cool for camp.  But that’s not all!  While Ernest does what he can to be a great counselor, the camp itself is actually in trouble, as the owner, Chief St. Cloud is being strong-armed by the head of an evil mining corporation to sell the land the camp has been built on.  Again, it will be up to Ernest and his rag tag group of “cool” kids to stop this from happening as well.

As a film, Ernest Goes to Camp follows all of the basic tropes of a summer camp film.  Regardless of the clichés that are present throughout, the problem is that none of these aspects are particularly well done.  What it essentially comes down to is how much you can tolerate Ernest as a character.  These films will never get past the central conceit of “Ernest is as Ernest does,” so if you enjoy watching Ernest get into ridiculous situations, while acting like the same ol’ Ernest, then there is a decent amount of fun to be had.  For me, I can only take so much Ernest in one sitting, but certainly trying to understand the depth of this character (semi-seriously) is a fun way to approach him.

In regards to the rest of this film, despite the budget and time spent to capture the semblance of a typical 80s summer comedy akin to something like Caddyshack for instance, the film is very poorly done.  The supporting characters all fall flat, the basic logic of the film is laughable (and not in an intentionally comedic way), and even the film’s supposed message is very off putting.  Writer/director John Cherry does not come off well, despite a running joke between my friends and me that he is the master of the comedic close-up.  The bare minimum is done to create a watchable film, but it comes off as more of a look back at some of the crap that this character had to offer in cinematic form.

Despite how easy it is to associate Ernest with the barrel of crappy movies he produced, Ernest Goes to Camp was the best received film of this franchise (currently standing as the only one of these films that is “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes).  I can sort of see why.  Despite how unfunny it may seem by today’s standards, this was a surprise success at the time, which is most likely due to Ernest not having overstayed his welcome at this point.  It also helps that regardless of the rest of the film, the Ernest character has never been a mean spirited person, which tends to work well for family audiences that would see this film.  Still, it’s not a film that really begs for rewatching, which is still more than I can say about the second half of this double feature.

Ernest Goes to Jail

After the breakout success of the first full length Ernest feature, a Christmas-themed follow up was made, called Ernest Saves Christmas.  As that film was also a success, a third film was made, which is the subject here.  As it stands, Ernest Goes to Jail, still hold the status of the second most successful Ernest film (next to ‘Christmas’).  I am not sure what that says about the perception the film versus the wave of follow ups after it, which were not as successful, but equally bad, but at this point Ernest films were certainly beyond their breaking point (with maybe the exception of the Halloween Ernest film that followed this one).

This time around, Ernest (Jim Varney) is now working as the janitor in a bank, with aspirations of becoming a bank clerk.  However, before Ernest can actually achieve that goal, he must first attend jury duty.  Unfortunately for Ernest, he happens to look exactly like a death row inmate.  This inmate is Felix Nash (also played by Varney) and one of his flunkies manages to convince the jury to go on a tour of the prison.  It is at this point that Ernest is kidnapped and forced to swap roles with Nash.  Of course, no one believes Ernest when he claims to be someone else, creating quite the predicament as Nash assumes the role of Ernest in the free world, with a plot to rob the bank.

Of course no one is really expecting great things from an Ernest movie, or even something that resembles a strong story, but it would help if the movie, which is supposed to be a comedy, actually had some comedy in it.  Beyond the appeal that stems from laughing at the movie opposed to with it, there is not really anything to this movie that seemed inherently funny.  Again, laughing at the Ernest character is where most people come down to when it comes time to appreciate something about this film, so if one finds the character enjoyable, then there is at least something that a fan can latch onto.

Presumably the budget must have been higher for this Ernest feature, but it really seems inconsequential.  Once again, Varney’s frequent Ernest collaborator, writer/director John Cherry, does very little with very little.  Fitting to the humor in the film, everything about the production feels juvenile.  Early setups to jokes are delivered on poorly, side characters are weak, and the rest of the production just looks kind of ugly (more to be said about that later).  The film also tries to deliver on some special effects and while I would not expect much, the work done is still pretty terrible.

If you’re a fan of the Ernest films, then this latest entry should probably appeal to you.  There is certainly nothing offensive about these films, despite having little to offer, they just come from a time when this character seemingly had more to offer than now.  A film like this was poorly received at the time from anyone else who was not an Ernest fan, and that probably will not change for those who decide to reflect on films of the past such as this one. KnowWhatIMean?

Video

Ernest Goes to Camp is presented in a 1080i 2:35:1 aspect ratio.  It really does not seem like much effort was put into making this look great, but I was not expecting that.  As it stands, this is probably the best Ernest will ever look, so take that as you will.  For being the older of the two films on the disc, it is actually the better looking one.  Lots of scenes taking place outside and there is a good amount of clarity, despite the grain present throughout.  Very little to recommend, but it’s at least something.

Ernest Goes to Jail is presented in a 1080i 16:9 aspect ratio.  Clearly the worse of the two films, this is a very dirty transfer that presents plenty of grain, issues with handling its colors and black levels, and is all around ugly to look at throughout.  Again, I was not expecting these films to get amazing treatment, but that does not mean I have to grade on a curve.  This may be the ultimate way to view Ernest, but it is still pretty poor.

Audio

Both films are presented in DTS HD 2.0 and PMC Uncompressed 2.0.  The films both rely on goofy sound effects when it comes to dealing with anything that suggests you need to really hear what is going on effectively, and the Blu-ray audio presentation is not exactly crisp here.  The mix is bearable, but nowhere near good enough to think of it as a positive.  A tricked out audio system is not exactly needed in order to get the best out of this disc.  Listening to Ernest rattle on is easy enough, but the balance in reference to the soundtrack and effects all mixed together is not very good at all.

Special Features

As much as I was hoping Roger Ebert would grace this disc with his presence and deliver a wonderfully informed commentary on these films, as he has on others, he must have been busy when asked.  So sadly, there is absolutely nothing in terms of extra features available on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Yes, I jumped at the chance to review two Ernest movies.  As it was about time I joined my fellow Why So Blu writers in working on Blu-ray reviews, I figured this would be my best way to start out.  Revisiting these films, with aid from friends, as I could not watch these by myself and appropriately assess them (thanks guys), I can certainly see semblance of appeal from a long time ago, but that time really seems like it has passed.  As much as I can admire Jim Varney for creating a likable enough character, these are not the retro classics that some may be hoping for.  It doesn’t help that the Blu-ray presentation is sub-par either.  The video and audio quality can be filed under poor and the lack of any sort of extra material only makes matters worse.  So take this as you will.  If you are a fan of Ernest and really want to see him on Blu-ray, this is the disc for you (as poor of quality as it is); for everyone else, you are not missing much.  One thing that stands:  Jim Varney was the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story, and Slink has been my favorite character.  KnowWhatIMean?

So Get Your Copy of this Ernest Double Feature Today!

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

3 Responses to “Ernest Goes to Camp / Ernest Goes to Jail Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Yay! Let’s welcome young Aaron to the official WSB reviewer fold!

    KnowWhatIMean?

  2. Brian White

    Welcome Aaron!

    NICE review 🙂

  3. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks for taking one for the team on this one! 😉