Ernest Goes to Camp / Ernest Goes to Jail – Blu-ray Review

Well, golly gee, this fangled Blu-Ray stuff is quite something to see, KnoWhutImean, Vern?

If you’re young enough to remember, the slack-jawed yokel that everyone knew as Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) began his career as a pitchman in a variety of commercials throughout the ’80s. In 1987 his career took a huge leap forward when he starred in the first of many feature films. Well, the first and third of those films have been released on this double feature Blu-ray disc.

In Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest is a summer camp handyman with dreams of one day running the camp. He gets his big break to finally become a counselor when the camp is forced to take on a group of juvenile delinquents. What follows is a pretty standard underdog story about Ernest and the kids.

I remember seeing this film when it originally came out, I was nine at the time and loving every minute of it. I watched it a lot as a kid and had fond memories of it. Sadly, those memories were crushed with this recent viewing of the film. Camp just doesn’t have the legs to stand up as a timeless comedy classic. All of Ernest’s pratfalls feel forced and the story beats are trite at best.

However, that said, I’m sure kids today would still get a kick out of this film. It’s got some pretty stupid humor in it that kids are bound to still laugh at and in the end it’s got a great message that kids could learn from. So while I may not have enjoyed the film as much as I did when I was young, I have would have no problem sharing this film with my kids… if I had any.

This double feature skips Ernest’s second adventure – where he Saves Christmas – and goes straight to his third, Ernest Goes to Jail.

Jail beings very similarly to Camp in that Ernest is the janitor of bank who dreams of being a bank teller. Things take a turn for Ernest when he is picked for jury duty. Through a turn of events that could only befall Ernest, a criminal who looks just like him, Felix Nash (also Varney) pulls the ol’ switch-a-roo landing Ernest smack dab in jail while Nash takes his life at the bank with plans to rob it. Now Ernest must find a way out of jail so he can save the day.

Again, the film is filled with tons of forced pratfalls and the plot is even thinner than Camp. However, while a worse film, Jail allows Varney to show he does have some acting chops, which comes in the form of Nash. While Nash himself isn’t that interesting or amazing a character, he is so far removed from Ernest that at times it is hard to believe at times that they are the same character.

Sadly, the rest of the film is so forgettable that this surprise acting performance is all but lost.

Jim Varney managed to create an ’80s sensation with Ernest P. Worrell and managed to sustain a film career all through the ’90s. As a kid I loved Ernest. I watched the TV show, I enjoyed Camp, but revisiting him for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon crushed all my pleasant memories of him.

Camp is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and Jail is presented in 16:9. Both offer 2.0 DTS HS and 2.0 Dobldy Digital Audio. Camp looks pretty good for the most part, but there is still a lot of dirt and scratches visible in the transfer. Jail is a pretty sub par transfer. It’s certainly improved by hi-def, but still doesn’t look very dazzling.

This is a bare bones disc with no special features.

While Ernest cracked me up endlessly as a child, I wasn’t able to find any humor in him as an adult. I can imagine that kids would still find him funny so in that way, I guess I can say he has aged well, but adults should probably steer clear.

Mill Creek Entertainment presents:

Ernest Goes to Camp: Directed by: John R. Cherry III. Written by John R. Cherry III, Coke Sams, Steve Leasure and Glenn Petach. Starring: Jim Varney, Victoria Racimo and John Vernon. Running time: 91 min. Rating: PG. Originally released in 1987.

Ernest Goes to Jail. Directed by: John R. Cherry III. Written by Charlie Cohen. Starring: Jim Varney, Gailard Sartain and Barbara Tyson. Running time: 80 min. Rating: PG. Originally released in 1990. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: March 22, 2011.