You can get your critics’ license taken away for admitting this, but the first two Ernest movies, Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Saves Christmas, cracked me up. Which is not to say they were great — they weren’t. For one thing, the character of Ernest P. Worrell, as played by Jim Varney, is just too geeky to bear for very long. But director John Cherry, the mastermind behind the Ernest phenomenon, made his fortune in commercials, and he took a similar approach to the two previous features by stitching together a different gonzo gag every 30 seconds.
So it’s disappointing that Ernest Goes to Jail wastes its time over an actual plot — the old Ernest-switches-places-with-a-mob-boss bit. Worse, by giving him a love interest in Barbara Bush (no, not that one), the script tries to work up sympathy for a character who’s not much more than the bastard trailer-park spawn of Jerry Lewis. Sadly, this is everything you ever thought an Ernest movie would be. D