Way back when, a young boy was posed with a choice. One was going to see what would go on to become a holiday classic; the other, a corny flick starring a trendy pop culture icon the young boy had a liking for from lunch meat commercials. The boy chose Ernest Saves Christmas over Scrooged starring Bill Murray. Oh, well. The thought at the time and still the lasting memory was that this was the first time the boy was given the choice of which movie he and his family was going to watch. So no matter how good or bad Ernest might be, the film will always have a sentimental place in a small nook of his heart.
Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is a loveable galoot. He drives a taxi and acts as though he were a loveable man-child. That’s probably why Varney’s character caught on with the kiddie crowd and saw him star in some half-dozen Ernest movies over the years. Don’t let his somewhat gruff appearance fool you. He’s as innocent as a fluffy white bunny. He’s essentially the uncle who’s constantly cracking bad jokes. That’s why you love him.
Santa (Douglas Seale) is in town, trying to track down his replacement, Joe Curruthers (Oliver Clark), a former kids show host who has fallen on bad times. But who’d believe an old man who approaches you and offers you a job based out of the North Pole? Other than children who recognize Santa’s trademark eye twinkle, probably only Ernest. So Santa, Ernest and Harmony (Noelle Parker), a young runaway who crossed paths with Ernest, set out to convince Joe that the job offer is indeed the real deal and that he must take over before Christmas Eve. That’s when the current Santa’s magical power runs dry so if he can’t do it, Christmas as the Western world knows it will not come.
Ernest Saves Christmas shares many similarities with Miracle on 34th Street. In particular, both question the existence of Santa Claus as a living, breathing biological being with magical powers as opposed to a heart-warming myth that spurns on commercialism in November and December. Ironically, in the process of exploring this issue, both films are looking to reveal the spirit of Christmas as a time of giving, sharing and loving.
Ernest Saves Christmas is an innocent enough film that will likely appeal more to the children than their parents. The jokes are best described as ‘cute’ as they often revolve around Ernest’s impersonations and little remarks directly into the camera, or his best friend Vern as he sees it. At about the same time that Ernest Saves Christmas was originally released Pee Wee Herman was big with kids. Both him and Ernest are frenetic types, filled with more energy than sense, but that’s okay because this is comedy at its lightest.
I remember my fondness for the film being much greater some number of years ago since this was the first flick of my choosing. Although it meant missing Scrooged, at the time I was thrilled with my decision. If nothing else, this is a reminder for me that I was once young and movies don’t always have to be deep or artful to be enjoyable. Sometimes all you need is fun and a short nostalgia fix.
Ernest Saves Christmas Trailer