Ernest Goes to Camp is a 1987 comedy film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. It is the second film to feature the character of Ernest P. Worrell and was shot in Nashville, Tennessee (mostly at Montgomery Bell State Park and Camp Marymount). It was also the first Ernest film to be distributed by Touchstone Pictures, and Iron Eyes Cody's final appearance on screen.
A historical ceremonial powwow opening features a medicine man tossing a knife and tomahawk at a young brave warrior to test his faith in the Great One and true courage. He also shoots an arrow at him to test his purity of heart. Jim Varney reprises his role of Ernest P. Worrell, working as a maintenance man at Kamp Kikakee and hoping to become a counselor. With his typical enthusiasm, he pours himself into the role and quickly becomes a valuable addition to the staff, in particular for his passion at learning the specialized sign language used by Kikakee's owner, Chief Saint Cloud (Iron Eyes Cody), who does not speak English.
Ernest gets his chance at counseling when he is assigned a small group of juvenile delinquents whom the regular counselors are hesitant to take on — primarily because the group hospitalized their first counselor, the militant Ross Stennis (Eddy Schumacher). Ernest quickly takes the side of the boys, due to his compassion and for having suffered his own abuse at the hands of Stennis. The boys are initially unenthusiastic, but start to show a little respect during a campfire session when Nurse St. Cloud (Victoria Racimo) translates her grandfather's description of the warrior initiation ritual for his tribe. The initiate must hold still while a knife, a stone hatchet, and an arrow are thrown or shot at the target. It is implied that the courage of the young warrior actually alters the course of all three to prevent his death.
Meanwhile, an evil mining corporation run by the ruthless Sherman Krader (John Vernon) has its sights on Kikakee, a site rich with the fictional mineral petrocite. However, Chief St. Cloud refuses to sell. Krader manipulates Ernest, one of the few people who speaks the chief's language, into convincing St. Cloud to sign away the land, lying to Ernest that he is circulating a conservation petition. With the camp in danger of being destroyed, Nurse St. Cloud tries to talk Ernest out of doing anything rash until she can get a lawyer. She firmly believes that they can win the case if they can get to court, but Ernest objects, knowing that by the time they can get to a hearing, Krader will already be tearing down the camp for a strip mine.
With the boys in tow, Ernest storms into the miners' construction site and demands words with the boss. Krader is not present, so the foreman (Lyle Alzado) meets Ernest's challenge instead, savagely beating him up. A dispirited Ernest then leaves the camp for a while to be alone. When Nurse St. Cloud overhears the kids verbally demeaning Ernest's effort, she chastises them and reveals that Ernest is the only person who ever defended them, both to the authorities and to the camp staff, mostly because he was the only one who really cared about them. When they learn about the sacrifices that Ernest has made on their behalf, they resolve to find him and apologize. In doing so, Ernest and the campers quickly mend their relationship through their newfound respect for him.
Krader is still poised to demolish Kikakee, and when the regular staff and campers are sent home, the group decides to risk openly attacking the construction site to stall for time. Recruiting the Second Chancers, the two regular campers who usually picked on them and the chefs Jake and Eddie, Ernest plans a full-scale assault as the construction company begins to demolish Kikakee.
The group works feverishly to create a series of improvised weapons, including flaming arrows to shoot into piles of explosives and flammable barrels that the company had stacked up by their camp. Prior to the attack, Chief St. Cloud arrives to pass along a native blessing, though Nurse St. Cloud begs them not to go through with it. They also catapult in a group of box turtles who have had parachutes attached. The assault quickly cripples the construction site's equipment. However, the foreman escapes in a bulldozer and destroys several camp buildings. The group stops him by filling the back of Ernest's motorized maintenance cart with explosives (including Jake and Eddie's unpleasant "Eggs Erroneous" cooking) and rolling it into the bulldozer, destroying it. Ernest then knocks out the foreman with one punch.
Krader and his lawyer arrive at Kikakee and Krader pulls out his high-powered hunting rifle, targeting Ernest, despite the lawyer's protests that he is engaging in criminal conduct. Echoing Kikakee's ancient testimonial pow wow, Ernest faces down Krader and apparently passes the age old test as Krader takes three shots at him, missing every time. Ernest then plugs Krader's hunting rifle with his finger and laughs in his face, signaling Krader's defeat, while Krader's lawyer comments to himself that Krader has outdone himself.
The boys and Ernest succeed in protecting the land and Kamp Kikakee remains for young campers to enjoy. Nurse Saint Cloud then returns with an injunction against Krader, along with some policemen, who arrest Krader for attempted assault with a deadly weapon. She later reveals to Ernest that Krader confessed to fraud by lying to Ernest in order to convince Chief Saint Cloud to sign a document he had no knowledge of, and thanks Ernest for leading the charge to save the camp. As thanks for all he has done for Kikakee, Ernest is promoted to counselor and remains his dedicated and good-hearted, albeit clumsy self.
As everyone takes part in rebuilding Kikakee, Ernest is hoisting the camp sign and accidentally falls. Jake and Eddie wondered what happened, and Chief Saint Cloud speaks his first sentence in English: "Ernest fell off the ladder".
- Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell
- Victoria Racimo as Nurse St. Cloud
- John Vernon as Sherman Krader
- Iron Eyes Cody as Old Indian 'Chief St. Cloud'
- Lyle Alzado as Bronk Stinson (Foreman)
- Gailard Sartain as Jake (Chef #1)
- Daniel Butler as Eddie (Chef #2)
- Patrick Day as Bobby Wayne
- Scott Menville as Crutchfield
- Jacob Vargas as Butch "Too Cool" Vargas
- Todd Loyd as Chip Ozgood
- Hakim Abdulsamad as Moustafa "Moose" Hakeem Jones
- Eddy Schumacher as Counselor Ross Stennis
- Richard Speight, Jr. as Brooks
- Andy Woodworth as Pennington
- Buck Ford as Attorney Elliott Diate
- Larry Black as M. Tipton
- Hugh Sinclair as Counselor Sparks
- Johnson West as Counselor Puckett
- Jean Wilson as State Supervisor
- Mac Bennett as Technician #1
- John Brown as Technician #2
- Robert G. Benson. III as Camper #1
- Adam Ruff as Camper #2
- Michael Chappelear as Camper #3
- Lance Bridgesmith as Camper #4
- Paulo Deleon as Young Indian Brave
- Harvey Godwin Jr as Brave's Father
- Ivan Green as Mr. Stewart
- Christian Haas as Molly Stewart
- Brenda Haynes as Mrs. Stewart
Ernest Goes to Camp was the best received of the franchise, earning a 62% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a mixed to positive response. However, Varney was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as Worst New Star.
The songs were written by Alice and Shane Keister.
- Ashley Cleveland sang "We're Gonna win this One" while the boy campers are building their teepee.
- Gary Chapman sang "Brave Hearts" during the film and in the credits.
- Ernest sang "Gee I'm Glad It's Raining" when he and other campers are sad about the camp's closing.
- The song used to detach the box turtle from Ernest's nose is "Happy Together," a song which was written and recorded by the musical group The Turtles. It also serves as a theme song of the film.
This film's first DVD release was on September 3, 2002 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Mill Creek Entertainment re-released it on January 18, 2011 as part of a 2-disc Triple Feature set with Ernest Goes to Jail and Ernest Scared Stupid. They also released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011 in a single disc Double Feature set along with Ernest Goes to Jail, and later on its own Blu-ray on June 13, 2011. A second Blu-ray double feature with Camp Nowhere was released on March 26, 2013.
- ↑ "Varney: The Importance of Being Ernest", Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 6 October 2010.
- ↑ "Weekend Box Office - Los Angeles Times".. Articles.latimes.com.
- ↑ "Weekend Box Office", The Los Angeles Times.
- ↑ LEONARD KLADY. "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times".. Articles.latimes.com.
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