Wednesday, January 3, 2018

ERNEST GOES TO JAIL

Back when I started reviewing the Ernest series, I mentioned that I only had two Ernest movies as a kid. I owned "Ernest Saves Christmas" on DVD, which I never finished watching for being too silly and dull; and the other was a VHS copy that I never bothered viewing after being turned off by the other Ernest film, until now, that film is...



Even though I didn't wish to waste my time viewing a film that would probably bore and annoy me at a young age, I was still curious to know how someone as childishly goofy as Ernest can get thrown into jail in the first place, and what his prison experience is going to be like. And after giving his Christmas movie a chance, which I surprisingly found myself liking in-spite of it not being a very good movie; it's now finally time to give this one a fair shot too. Did I do the right thing by avoiding this film as a kid, or is there some good in it to make it an entertaining if far from a good movie? ON WITH THE REVIEW!

Ernest (Jim Varney) works as a night custodian in a bank who dreams of one day becoming a clerk, but doesn't seem to have a chance upon getting there since his boss (Dan Leegant) is near fed-up with his disastrous mishaps. Upon getting a summons to jury duty, Ernest gets excited to be taking part in determining if a criminal is innocent or guilty until things take an unusual turn for him. The jury is sent to tour the prison for where a murder took place, but Ernest foolishly leaves the group where he  finds himself to be knocked unconscious by an inmate on death-row named Nash who looks exactly like him (also played by Varney), and wakes up wearing Nash's prison clothes as everybody around him believes that he's the cold hearted criminal who practically runs the joint. As Ernest is being forced by two of his cellmates to behave like Nash, while he tries to find a way to escape; Nash now taking Ernest's place plans to rob the bank where he works at.

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When comparing this to the previous Ernest film "Ernest Saves Christmas", it's nice to see a film being centered on his character again instead of the supporting characters. But for some odd reason, he still lacks the charm and endearing qualities that he had in "Ernest Goes to Camp". He's still fun to watch, his personality is likable, but I hardly ever felt emotionally connected to him at all. He has a dream of becoming a bank clerk, but unlike how Ernest's dream of becoming a camp counselor was s goal that you felt attached too since it was the film's focus, his goal here is hardly ever played up and barley addressed again after he mentions it. There's not even a moment where I found myself feeling sorry for him. Not because it was predictable, but because of how rushed it all is. When things went completely south for Ernest when he went to camp, we had a brutal scene of him getting beaten-up that proceeds with a song that's so depressing that it crushes my soul for every time it plays. And though Ernest didn't have a single emotional scene when he saved Christmas, we in the very least still had an emotional connection to the character of Santa who's trying to do right for the holiday after behaving so selfishly about his job, or else Christmas will be lost forever (weeeell, at least the Santa part of Christmas). But in this film, we get nothing, which is disappointing. You'd think for a film titled "Ernest Goes to Jail", we’d feel some kind of sympathy for Ernest when we see him behind bars whether it was consistent, or in a scene as depressing as the "Gee I'm Glad It's Raining" scene.



Though to be fair, emotion is not the film's main goal; the film’s primary goal is to entertain you by throwing as many visual gags as possible through a very simple and basic storyline, much like in his TV Specials. And as much as I miss those little sentimental elements that the previous Ernest films had, this film is by far the most entertaining one of the three. Right from the opening credits sequence that plays itself out like the opening credits to a Bond film (just with a cartoony prison setting to a silly rock song), I knew that this film was going to be different from the other Ernest films. For at least 80% of the film, the film is trying to hit you with one gag or crazy situation after another, and though there are plenty of unfunny bits that are dull, gross, and awkward, there are just as many enjoyable comedic bits that will surprise you, give you a laugh, and at most entertain you. A lot of the jokes and scenarios in the film are far-fetched and make no sense, but that's part of the enjoyment for this film. It's the same kind of outlandish ludicrous environment that you would suspend your disbelief for like in a Zucker Brothers film, or "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", just not as funny as those films are, but not as annoying and offensive as those terrible (I think) satire films by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. I really did get more laughs out of this film when compared to his other films, and even his TV Specials for that matter for how the film doesn't run out of steam with its jokes, energy, and visual sense of humor. The film itself is also by far the most visually interesting film out of all the Ernest films. Not just for its gags, but also for some of the locations we visit. The prison that Ernest is locked in for instance looks like a terrible place to be in, that feels claustrophobic for how exaggeratedly closed in everything is, but for some reason the person who did the interior design for it seemed to have been an expert at making a fun-houses for how colorful and cartoon like it is. Even Ernest's house that was an interesting but watered-down knock-off of Pee-Wee's house from “Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" in "Ernest Saves Christmas" is more fun to look at in this film, for the many creative inventions that Ernest uses to get through his daily routines, as he does some very out of the norm things without using them. It's still an obvious knock-off to Pee-Wee's house, but still as cool and insane of a place to visit. And if you think his house is loaded with surprises, well wait till you see his next door neighbor’s house. As for the effects, they're just as hit and miss as the jokes in this film; some are decent, as others are unbelievably cheesy. But even the cheesiness for these effects in my opinion adds to the visual appeal for this film, the same way how the cheesy effects make the Adam West Batman series even more laughable.

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What I also feel that this film does better when compared to the other Ernest films is the villain. The villains in the previous two Ernest films were not only dull and forgettable, but you knew that they were going to be outsmarted by Ernest for how weak and clich├ęd they are. With Nash on the other hand, though I'm not going to act like that I didn't think Ernest wasn’t going to stand a chance against him, he's still a much more memorable and intimidating villain when compared to the others. What's obviously memorable about him is that he's also played by Varney, where it's cool to see him take on a villain role in the same film where he's mugging it up as a heroic childish redneck with a heart of gold. Only instead of him playing his villain role for laughs, like say having a Saturday Morning thug-like voice, or acting as over the top nasty as Varney’s character Uncle Lloyd Worrell, he plays his character out like a badass. Okay, I'm not going to act like that he's one of the scariest villains to appear in a family film, but he's still pretty intimidating for how no-nonsense this guy is, and how he's always threatening his inmates and thinking of what crime that he should pull next when he's out. And now that he has control over Ernest's life since he's living under his identity, it is pretty unsettling to see a hardcore criminal have the advantage to harm the people that Ernest knows if he felt like it, let alone destroy his life style that may possibly not be the same if poor Ernest ever escapes.

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If you read my reviews on the other Ernest films, then you may know that I wasn't a fan of Gailard Sartain and the people they pair him up with for each film. From chefs who were constantly annoying, to storage agents that were just as irritating but were occasionally saved by some of the visual gags, they were usually the most insufferable set of characters for these movies. And as soon as I discovered that Sartain is being paired up with the same actor who played the other storage agent from "Ernest Saves Christmas", I was ready to hate them. But as much as I wanted too, I found myself being less annoyed by them and more entertained. I suppose the reason for that is because Sartain is acting less obnoxious than he did before, which makes him tolerable, and that the jokes and scenarios that they're given is a little funnier than it was in the last two film installment involving the Ernest P. Worrell character. It's just a real shame that the other supporting characters aren't as fun to watch as them because they are so bland! Like on the same level of bland as the supporting characters in "Ernest Goes to Camp". The performances aren't terrible, but they aren't anything special or memorable either. But in the very least, I’ll take serviceable over annoying any time in these films.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

The best way to describe this film as a whole is to picture "Muppet's Most Wanted" combined with the same kind of zaniness as "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" and the Zucker Brothers films, just without it being as funny, or charming, but still highly entertaining to the max. I don’t highly recommend it to an adult crowd since the film is clearly aiming more towards kids, but if you’re curious in seeing an Ernest film and just want to be entertained, than this is by far the best option to choose from.

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